The Cubs beat the Pirates 9-6 in a sloppy game Thursday afternoon, and added injury to insult as Chris Coghlan knocked Jung-Ho Kang out of the game early on.
The Pirates gave up one run in the first, but the big loss there was that of Kang, who exited when Coghlan slid out of the base path and hard into Kang's left knee while trying to break up a double play. Kang rolled around in obvious pain and required help to leave the field, eventually using the dugout steps as a pair of crutches so he didn't have to walk down the stairs on his left leg. He was replaced by Jordy Mercer, who, of course, the Pirates lost for several weeks earlier this season when Carlos Gomez slid into him. Hopefully Kang won't suffer a similar fate.
The Cubs took a 3-0 lead on a pair of RBI doubles by Addison Russell and Tommy La Stella in the second before the Pirates finally scored in the bottom of the inning, on a solo homer that was Travis Snider's first of the year in a Bucs uniform.
In the bottom of the third, though, the Pirates came back in a big way. Gregory Polanco led off a line drive to center for his ninth homer of the year. Later, Kyle Hendricks hit Neil Walker, who moved to third as Mercer singled and ran his way into an out on the bases. Then Pedro Alvarez golfed Hendricks' curveball over the Clemente Wall, giving the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
That lead would, however, be short-lived. After a quiet fourth, Charlie Morton started a huge mess in the fifth with a double to Coghlan and a two-run shot to Anthony Rizzo (on a pitch that was off-target but well below the strike zone). He exited after allowing a single to Kris Bryant. Joe Blanton then entered, and Miguel Montero reached base on an error by Alvarez. Russell then singled in a run, and after a passed ball by Francisco Cervelli, pitcher Clayton Richard brought home two runs with a double. La Stella added a ground ball RBI single before Blanton finally got things under control.
The Cubs ended up with a five-run lead, a very difficult deficit to come back from even if you keep hitting, which the Pirates at least sort of did. In the seventh, Josh Harrison led off with a double and came around to score as Polanco singled off the Clemente Wall. Polanco then stole second base (dangerous, I thought, given how badly they needed baserunners) and came home on Walker's double.
It was too little, too late, though, as the Cubs left Pittsburgh with a 9-6 victory and a series win. The Cubs are now just two games back of the Bucs for the first Wild Card spot. The Pirates will need to stay ahead of the Cubs to keep the Wild Card game at PNC, too, since they're now 6-10 against them and won't be able to make up that deficit in their three-game set at Wrigley next weekend.