Not even a midafternoon storm could slow down the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, as they pushed through a lengthy rain delay to down the Chicago Cubs 4-2 at PNC Park.
The Pirates (29-18) scored all four runs in the first two innings, with two Andrew McCutchen RBI singles bookending run-scoring hits from Michael McKenry and Travis Snider. McCutchen, who also made a run-saving seventh-inning catch in center field, went 3 for 4 to boost his average to .291 after a tepid start to the season.
Jeanmar Gomez’ days in the Pirates pitching rotation are probably limited, but the 25-year-old righty threw 3 2/3 innings before rain delayed the game for nearly two hours in the top of the fourth. Vin Mazzaro took over after the cloudburst, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless frames to maintain Pittsburgh’s 4-1 lead.
Rookie lefty Justin Wilson bailed Jose Contreras out of trouble in the seventh, eventually handing the ball to Jason Grilli for the ninth. Grilli recorded two strikeouts in setting down the Cubs in order, increasing the Pirates’ winning streak to four while earning his MLB-leading 19th save.
Pittsburgh went 8-2 against Milwaukee, Houston and Chicago on its just-concluded 10-game homestand. The Pirates, now tied with Cincinnati for second place in the National League Central, have a major league-best 18 wins at home.
The streaking Bucs jumped all over Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, who didn’t return after the delay. McCutchen and McKenry each ripped RBI singles to left to put the Pirates ahead 2-0 in the first.
In the bottom of the second, Snider’s triple to the North Side Notch in left-center scored Starling Marte with two outs, followed by another line drive off the bat of McCutchen.
Marte, the Pirates’ early leader in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), had a 2-for-3 day in the leadoff spot and scored a pair of runs. He also stole his 11th base, one behind McCutchen (who stole two on the day) for the team lead.
The Cubs (18-28) got a run in the fourth on Anthony Rizzo’s fielder’s choice groundout and one more off Contreras in the seventh when Ryan Sweeney popped a single to right.
The Pirates take to the road for five straight games, the first of which is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. Eastern time Friday in Milwaukee. Bucco ace A.J. Burnett (2.57 ERA) opposes the Brewers’ Marco Estrada (5.44).