The Pittsburgh Pirates won their fourth in a row on a cloudy Thursday night as they downed the Chicago Cubs 3-1 in the first game of a four-game series at PNC Park.
The victory improved Pittsburgh’s record to 85-61 and they are now tied with St. Louis for first place in the National League Central. The Cardinals lost to Milwaukee on Thursday.
The Bucs’ Jeff Locke picked up his 10th win of the season and his first since July 21st. The lefty threw seven innings and scattered three hits, walked one, struck out five on 100 pitches.
Lefthander Tony Watson answered the call to the bullpen in the top of the eighth while righty Mark Melancon worked around a wild pitch on a third strike and a single in the ninth to claim his 14th save of the season.
Pittsburgh tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when Marlon Byrd singled up the middle, scoring Andrew McCutchen with two out. The Bucs took the lead one batter later when Pedro Alvarez lined a single off the right-field wall, scoring Justin Morneau from second base.
The Pirates added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Jordy Mercer hit his 20th double of the season off Cubs reliever Blake Parker with two out, pushing Clint Barmes around from first. Mercer went 2 for 4 on the evening.
Chicago’s Chris Rusin picked up his fourth loss of the season as he tossed 79 pitches across seven innings. The lefthander struck out two, walked none, and gave up two earned runs on four hits.
The Cubs got on the scoreboard first in the top of the third. Darnell McDonald led off with a double against Locke. Two outs later, Starlin Castro singled to left-field, scoring McDonald from third base.
The lively PNC Park crowd of 23,541 gave the Bucs a standing ovation when they took the field to start the game, as they recognized the team’s guaranteed winning season.
The second game of the series with Chicago will be at 7:05 p.m. Friday. The Cubs (62-84) will send righthander Jake Arrieta (2-2, 4.28 ERA) to the mound while the Pirates will go with righthander Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.44 ERA).
The 29-year-old Morton will be making his 17th start of the season on Friday; he has won four of his last five decisions and has gone 6-2 in his last 10 starts. The game will be broadcast on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
From The Clipboard: Clint Hurdle’s crew finished with a 15-5 record against American League teams this season, winning each of their last nine games on the road…Russell Martin leads all major-league catchers with 28 caught stealings and has just two errors in 887 total chances…Pittsburgh’s attendance is up five percent for games through Sept. 11, according to Major League Baseball.