I hope it would please former Cubs manager Lee Elia that we here at Bucs Dugout had work obligations this afternoon. I was able to follow this one on the radio, though. What I heard was a wonderful pennant-race baseball game at windy Wrigley Field highlighted by Gerrit Cole's strong performance that led the Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Cubs to open an important late-season series.
The Pirates increased their lead over the Cubs for the first wild-card spot to 4 1/2 games and pulled within 3 1/2 games within the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. St. Louis plays host to the Brewers tonight.
Cole struck out eight, walked two and allowed four hits in seven innings. Jon Lester did not walk a batter, striking out six in seven innings, but he left with his team trailing, 2-1.
The Pirates got on the board first when Jordy Mercer doubled and scored on Cole's single up the middle in the third. Cole ran into a little trouble in the fourth, allowing singles to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell's groundout plated Bryant.
The score stayed tied at 1 until the seventh when Aramis Ramirez doubled and Francisco Cervelli's sacrifice bunt worked out, I suppose, when Michael Morse singled home pinch runner Keon Broxton. In the eighth the Pirates added an insurance run they would need when Starlin Castro, playing in, did not attempt to make a play on Mercer at home on Starling Marte's chopper.
Tony Watson went on in the eighth and got the first two outs, one an overturned call when Watson got Javier Baez on a bunt attempt, but walked Austin Jackson and gave up a single to Bryant. He then struck out Rizzo swinging to end the inning.
Mark Melancon had plenty of drama of his own in the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to Chris Denorfia and an RBI triple to Castro, with a strikeout of Miguel Montero in between. With the tying run on third, Melancon fanned Jorge Soler and Baez, apparently with some pretty solid work from Cervelli on balls in the dirt.
The Cubs can clinch a playoff spot with a Giants loss at Oakland tonight. If that happens, I strongly suggest the Cubs celebrate long into the night. They truly deserve it. Pay no mind to the noon local start time tomorrow.