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Scrambling for a playoff spot, Cubs falls to Pirates and Archer 6-0

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Inexplicably in the wonderful game of baseball, in each of the last five games between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the division leading Cubs, Chicago scored exactly one run - and each was a solo home run by a left-handed batter. Tuesday night that string was broken as the Cubs failed to score at all as Chris Archer turned in a dominant six innings of work.

Archer kept his pitch counts under control and had Chicago batters waving at change ups down and fast balls high all night, en route to a game score of 73 with nine strikeouts and only two walks and four hits in his six shutout frames. 63 of his 91 pitches on the night were thrown for strikes.

Meanwhile, September call-up and future super-sub Pablo Reyes just kept on hitting, lining a homerun into the left-field bleachers for the second night in a row, giving him three in fourteen major league games played. That homer opened the scoring in the top of the second. With one out, Corey Dickerson lined a double to right against the left-handed starter Mike Montgomery and Jose Osuna worked a 3-2 walk before Reyes lined a 1-0 pitch for a three-run blast. Reyes’ two hits and two walks on the night raised his batting line to 357/426/595.

The Pirates would put up single tallies in each of the third, fifth and sixth innings. Once Montgomery was lifted after allowing a leadoff double off the center field wall to Adam Frazier in the fifth, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon dipped into his fifteen man September bullpen, calling on five hurlers to throw just the rest of the fifth and then the sixth, and a total of seven over the final five innings of the game.

With a comfortable six-run lead, Dovydas Neverauskas came on in relief of Archer in the seventh and threw only his fourth 1-2-3 innings of the season on just ten pitches, then stayed out for another scoreless inning in the eighth. Steven Brault finished with a perfect ninth.

The Cubs’ loss leaves their record at 91-66, only 0.5 games ahead of the Brewers, who downed the Cardinals 12-4. That loss leaves St. Louis 0.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.

The Cubs’ chances were hurt further when Kris Bryant, trying to return to regular action after a months long shoulder problem, was hit by a pitch in the left hand and had to leave the game.

Having captured the first two games of the four game set, the Pirates will send Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.01) to the mound for game three at 8:05 pm Eastern on Wednesday, opposed by yet another left-hander, Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.11)