Adam Frazier clubbed four more hits Tuesday night, including a three run home run, and the pitching took it from there, flushing the Cubs 5-1 on a rainy night.
After losing his claim to the leadoff spot in late May and continuing to slump in June, Frazier has caught fire in the opening series of July, showing shades of Rennie Stennett with hits in his last seven at-bats against the Cubs.
Frazier, after working with hitting coach Rick Eckstein, has been on the attack at the dish as of late. The key has been catching the ball in front.
“It was just a matter of doing it,” said Frazier. “Something [Eckstein] said kind of clicked. I was trying to repeat that. At times I’ve shown that I can do it. Put my body in a position to deliver the barrel and do some damage.”
After scoring in the first inning on a Josh Bell sacrifice fly and again in the third on a Starling Marte double, Frazier got in on the RBI fun by taking a hanging Mike Montgomery curve over the bleachers in right.
This hot streak has come after Frazier was moved back to the top of the order.
“It’s worked out well for us,” said Clint Hurdle on Frazier batting up top. “He’s done a really spectacular job the last two days.”
A two hour and five minute rain delay shortened starter Joe Musgrove’s night after three innings. He struck out four and picked off the only runner who got on base against him.
The bullpen combined for six innings, with the win going to Clay Holmes (1-0) for his two scoreless frames. Holmes struck out four without allowing a base runner.
“That’s probably as good as we’ve seen,” Hurdle said of Holmes.
Francisco Liriano and Richard Rodriguez worked scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, as did Kyle Crick in the eighth. All three struck out one batter.
The Cubs scratched out a run in the ninth on a Willson Contreras double off Felipe Vazquez. It was Chicago’s only extra-base hit on the night.
“I think we’re in a really good place,” said Musgrove. “It’s kind of where we were last year, heading into the All-Star break. We caught some fire right before the break and we were able to carry it into the second half.
“...I think we’re just focused on what we’re doing here. We’re playing really good baseball, offensively and defensively, and our pitching’s been right where it needs to be. So I think we’re just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Chris Archer (3-6, 5.50) will try to keep the Pirates’ mojo going Wednesday against Yu Darvish (2-4, 4.98). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m..
1. In Hurdle’s nine seasons as manager, the Pirates have gone 123-84 in July. Their .594 winning percentage in that stretch is second in baseball in that stretch, trailing only to the Dodgers (124-74, .626).
2. Steven Brault had a pinch-hit single in the fourth. He is 3-3 as a pinch-hitter this year and is slashing .350/.350/.400 overall this season.
3. Frazier is the first Pirate to get a hit in seven consecutive at-bats since Freddy Sanchez on May 25-26, 2009.