The Pirates' bats woke up from their slumber early against Jon Lester and the bullpen held on just enough to avoid a sweep with a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night.
The Bucs tagged Lester for five runs in the first two innings. (Get just a couple of those on Tuesday and they're golden. Oh well.) Josh Harrison clubbed a leadoff home run, then Francisco Cervelli doubled home Gregory Polanco in the first. Phil Gosselin and Andrew McCutchen both hit RBI doubles in the second.
In between, Gosselin scored when catcher Willson Contreras dropped a throw on a double-steal attempt. It wasn't clear whether Harrison meant to start the "Little League play" or if he was just taking a charitable lead off of first against Lester. In any event, Gosselin would have been dead at the plate had Contreras held on to the ball.
Tyler Glasnow flirted with disaster, loading the bases the first two innings, but allowed just one run, hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch with the bases loaded in the second. Glasnow racked up a high pitch count early and was pulled in the middle of a two-run Cubs fourth, having thrown 89 pitches -- more than Gerrit Cole threw in seven innings the game before. Glasnow was charged for three runs on six hits and four walks, with four strikeouts in 3 1-3 innings.
Wade LeBlanc was shaky, allowing an inherited runner to score, but Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero kept Chicago at bay in the middle innings, while Josh Bell added a solo homer in the sixth, another authoritative right-handed shot to left-center field, which gave the Pirates a 6-3 lead.
Rizzo blasted a two-run homer off Daniel Hudson, suddenly pulling within 6-5 in the eighth. Tony Watson got Jason Heyward to line out for the final out of the eighth, but ran into some issues in the ninth. Contreras got a leadoff single. After a fielder's choice, a Jordy Mercer error (a questionable one, but he and Polanco could have both been charged with errors earlier) put two on before pinch-hitter Albert Almora hit into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Harrison and Bell each finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Gift Ngoepe made his major league debut and became the first African-born player to appear in the big leagues, coming in on a double switch in the fourth. With hearty applause behind him, Ngoepe stepped up and singled back through the middle in his first at-bat. He finished 1-for-2 with a walk.