This one didn’t fit the mold, but it counts just the same.
After six games with starting pitching mostly leading the way, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense needed to be at its persistent best to collect a 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
In their first road game of 2014, the Pirates (5-2) blew a 4-0 first-inning lead, but added single runs in the fourth, fifth and eighth to earn their third win in four tries against the Cubs this season. Pedro Alvarez paced the Bucs with two hits and two runs batted in, while Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and Neil Walker had two knocks and an RBI apiece.
In addition to their 11 hits, the Pirates walked seven times against erratic Cubs pitching. Starling Marte, McCutchen and Alvarez all walked in the eighth inning ahead of Martin’s tiebreaking sacrifice fly off Chicago reliever James Russell.
Chicago (2-5) had knotted the game at 6 on Anthony Rizzo‘s run-scoring single in the seventh against Tony Watson. It was the first regular-season run scored against the Pittsburgh lefty since Aug. 6, a span of 25 appearances.
The Pirates batted around in the first against Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. Alvarez laced a two-run double to right-center to open the scoring, followed by Walker’s RBI hit and a sac fly from Travis Ishikawa.
But while that type of a lead would normally mean a comfortable game for a Pittsburgh starting pitcher, that wasn’t the case for Charlie Morton on Tuesday. The lanky right-hander appeared to have a little too much movement on his pitches, leading to several balls left up in the zone.
To their credit, Cubs hitters made Morton pay by lashing eight hits in his six-inning stint. Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro homered twice off Morton, driving a game-tying three-run shot in the third and a solo bomb in the sixth that brought the home team within a 6-5 margin.
Castro and Emilio Bonifacio had three hits each, with the latter boosting his unreal early-season batting average to .515. Luckily the Pirates brought their bats to the park, too, as McCutchen socked a hard single to restore a one-run lead in the fourth.
Ishikawa put the finishing move on Jackson in the fifth by lifting an RBI triple to deep right field. Following Watson’s rare hiccup, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli lived up to their late-game roles with perfect innings to close out the first night of a nine-game road trip.