It was bombs away in Pittsburgh, Pa, as the Cubs bats finally came to life and avoided a sweep by downing the hometown Pirates by an 11-3 score.
Left-handed batters were supposed to be Pirates starter Jordan Lyles’ kryptonite, and he was facing only three of them in the Cubs lineup, but by the fifth innings Lyles was touched for a home run and a double off the center field wall by right-hander Kris Bryant and a pair of long balls by another right-handed batter, Willson Contreras.
The Pirates hung tough against Cubs starter Jose Quintana, getting a pair of runs in the second, keyed by Jung-ho Kang’s double and another in the third on Josh Bell’s deep sacrifice fly, and after four innings the Pirates trailed by only single run, 4-3.
The wheels fell off in the fifth. Bryant led off with a long drive to center. Starling Marte raced to the wall, back to the infield and leaped - only to have the ball just miss hitting his leg. The next three batters took an opposite approach, dropping flairs into short left and center, driving in Bryant and leaving the bases loaded with no outs, driving Lyles from the game with ten hits allowed in four plus innings.
It was a tough opportunity for Clay Holmes to escape, and he promptly drilled David Bote in the forehead with a fastball to drive in another run, making it 6-3. After two straight pitcher to catcher force outs at home, the second on a bunt by the pitcher Quintana where Joe West’ safe ruling had to be overturned on video replay, it looked like there was hope - but Holmes walked Kyle Schwarber to force in a run and Javier Baez singled for yet another.
Down 9-3 appeared to take all the fight out of the Pirates offense, as Quintana and two relievers retired every batter the rest of the way, in total seventeen in order.
Despite having the seemingly improbably sweep slip from their grasp, the Pirates sit three games behind both the Cubs and the Brewers who are in a virtual deadlock for first place in the National League Central.
Those Brewers are coming to PNC Park for a three games series starting at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, In a rematch of Sunday’s game in Milwaukee, the Brewers will send right-hander Zach Davies (7-2, 3.24) to the mound to face the Pirates’ left-hander Steven Brault (3-1, 4.29)