Despite not having a hit until the sixth inning, the Pittsburgh Pirates snapped a nine game losing streak as they exploded for seven runs in the seventh inning to send the plummeting Cubs to their seventh straight defeat, winning 9-2 Tuesday night at PNC Park.
Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendrick didn’t allow either a hit or a walk through the first five innings, although three Pirates reached on infield errors. Kevin Newman finally got the Pirates’ first hit on a solid line drive to center with one out in the sixth, but was picked off first base by Hendricks to end the inning.
Mitch Keller escaped a two-out, bases loaded situation in the first when he struck out Ian Happ, then had an easy time on both the second and third before Nico Hoerner put the Cubs on the board in the fourth with a lined double that skipped by the diving center fielder Bryan Reynolds and scored Jayson Heyward from first.
In the fifth, Kyle Schwarber’s second double put runner on second and third with one out, but Keller fanned Willosn Contreras and got Happ to pop out to left to end the threat and close out his night on the mound, trailing by a score of 1-0.
As much as Hendricks was in command of the game through six, everything fell apart in a seventh inning that lasted 35 minutes and 13 seconds.
Adam Frazier lined a double to center, Jose Osuna singled to short and Colin Moran flared a single to left to tie the score. Jacob Stallings dropped a single into right to load the bases then Kevin Kramer laced a double down the right field line to score a pair. Erik Gonzalez reached on second baseman Ben Zobrist’s error, the Cubs’ fourth of the night, scoring Stalling and Kramer for a 5-1 Pirates lead.
Hendricks was gone but pinch-hitter Pablo Reyes looped a single to right off reliever David Phelps. Gonzalez scored when Bryan Reynolds’ grounder was thrown past second base by pitcher Danny Hultzen, Frazier singled up the middle to drive in the seventh run.
The Pirates capped off their scoring on Erik Gonzalez’s two-run homer to center in the eighth, his first of the year.
Francisco Liriano pitched a scoreless seventh for the victory. Richard Rodriguez allowed an eight inning run to the Cubs on two hits and a walk despite striking out three, then Keone Kela finished off with a scoreless ninth.
The victory leaves the Pirates 2 1⁄2 games behind the Blue Jays for the fifth pick in the 2020 draft with five games left to play.
The Pirates and Cubs will play game two of the series at 7:05 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday evening at PNC Park, as rookie Dario Agrazal (4-5, 5.08) is scheduled to face the Cubs’ veteran left-hander Jon Lester (13-10, 4.51), who’ll be making his fifth start of the year against the Pirates.