Pirates outlast Cubs in another wild one to take series from playoff hopefuls
CHICAGO — Wild and wacky games against the Cubs have not been hard to find this season for the Pirates. But actually beating Chicago has proven difficult. It had happened just twice in 12 tries prior to Thursday.
While it was not without its frustrating moments, drama or missteps, the Pirates outlasted the Cubs to close the season series in fitting fashion, escaping Wrigley Field on Thursday with an 8-6 victory.
It marked the Pirates’ second consecutive victory against Chicago after a 14-1 loss on Tuesday night and upped their overall record to 72-81. The Pirates are 14-8 since Aug. 28 and 31-27 since July 19.
After three consecutive starts where he failed to last more than five innings, Johan Oviedo picked up his 14th quality start of the season with six scoreless frames. Using what appeared to be a slider more with more downward action, Oviedo balanced out five walks with the same number of strikeouts.
On the offensive side, Miguel Andujar drove the bus for the Pirates, collecting three hits and three RBIs and further pushing for playing time down the stretch. Speaking of pushing for things, Ke’Bryan Hayes flashed plenty of Gold Glove form throughout.
Hayes, hitting .344 with five doubles, a triple, three homers and eight RBIs in his previous 15, also contributed a pair of doubles. Connor Joe finished with three hits, an RBI and a run scored.
Big at the time and monumental after Dansby Swanson’s two-homer off David Bednar in the ninth, what Josh Palacios did in the ninth inning also further cemented his status as someone with a knack for clutch and also an outstanding pinch-hitter.
With the Cubs threatening thanks to three runs in the eighth, pulling to within a run at 5-4, Palacios came up huge with a three-run homer to right field, his 10th of the season. Low slider, lined to right. Palacios smiled as he rounded the bases. His teammates hooted and hollered from the dugout.
After the Pirates had the leadoff man on in each of the first two innings and failed to convert, Andujar ensured that wouldn’t happen a third time, giving the Pirates an early 2-0 lead.
With two outs, Andujar worked a full count before driving an elevated sinker the other way for a two-run double.
Andujar produced another RBI-hit in the fifth. This one came on a sinker inside, a hair off the plate, that Andujar lofted into left. Ian Happ slid but couldn’t come up with the catch, allowing Andujar to reach and Hayes to score.
Although he hasn’t played much, Andujar has been giving the Pirates plenty to consider. He began Thursday’s game hitting .324 with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs in 11 games since being promoted on Sept. 1. He also now has 101 RBIs between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis.
It’s not like Hayes needed a game full of highlights to further prove his Gold Glove candidacy, but that’s what happened against the Cubs. Terrific plays galore.
The best came in the second inning, when Hayes ventured into foul territory to snare a slow bouncer to deep third from Yan Gomes and deliver a strong throw across the diamond. Hayes robbed designated hitter Christopher Morel with a nifty backhanded stop in the fourth and got right fielder Seiya Suzuki by smartly backing up on a hope in the seventh.
It’s not that Hayes’ range is so good, although it is. He also has a ton of physical talent. But the awareness to make plays like throwing behind Suzuki on Wednesday or waiting an extra beat, knowing he still has time to get a better hop, it’s just incredible.
ON THE MOUND
This marked the 15th start for Oviedo where he allowed one or fewer earned run. It’s the most such starts for the Pirates since Trevor Williams had 14 of ‘em in 2018, and it comprises half of Oviedo’s workload (30 starts) this season. It also matches Francisco Liriano’s mark for 2013.
In his past six starts on the road, Oviedo is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA, a result bettered by only two pitches in the National League.
After the Cubs made it a 3-1 game in the seventh inning off Colin Selby, the Pirates produced another important push in the eighth.
Ji Hwan Bae went down and got a 1-2 changeup, shooting it into right for a run-scoring triple. Pittsburgh extended its lead to 5-1 when Joe lined a first-pitch slider into center.
In the eighth, Colin Holderman issued a one-out walk, and third baseman Miles Mastrobuoni singled before center fielder Mike Tauchman doubled to pull the Cubs to within 5-2.
A second passed ball charged to Endy Rodriguez created a 5-3 score, and second baseman Nico Hoerner bounced to short, allowing another run to score.
The Pirates move from one playoff aspirant to another, as they open a three-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Pittsburgh has not yet announced any starting pitchers.