A Pirates offense that hardly looked like it showed up against the Reds earlier in the week came out of its collective funk with a 10-6 victory over the Cubs on Friday. The win, which came in front of 39,082 at Wrigley Field, not only snapped the Bucs' four-game losing streak but also marked the club's sixth straight win over Chicago.
"I knew sooner or later we were going to be able to score some runs," said Andrew McCutchen, who was in the middle of all the scoring. "I knew eventually it was going to click for us, and today just happened to be that day."
An offense needing a leader to emerge found two in McCutchen and Garrett Jones. The Nos. 3 and 4 hitters combined to reach base 11 times, scored seven times and drove in seven as both had career games.
"He was fun to watch today," Jones said of McCutchen. "He did it all out there. It was fun to hit behind him, that's for sure."
"I guess we were competing against each other or something," McCutchen added. "It seemed like if I could get on base, he would do the rest. We're both feeling good, and I was just trying to get on base for him."
Each finished with five hits, something neither had done before. And together, they became the first pair of Pirates to have five hits in the same game since Bob Robertson and Willie Stargell on Aug. 1, 1970, in Atlanta.
It had been even longer since Cubs pitchers had given up five hits to two players in the same game. The Dodgers' Bob Lillis and Maury Wills accomplished the feat on Oct. 1, 1960.
"That's really, really fun to see when those two get hot like that and do what they do," said starter Brian Burres, who was bailed out by those performances. "That's awesome."
Of the 10 hits McCutchen and Jones collected, none was bigger than Jones' three-run blast in the eighth. It came with the score tied at 6 and the Pirates yearning not to waste a rare outburst from the offense.
After knocking a ball just inches foul off the right-field wall that would have surely scored two, Jones connected on a sinker from Carlos Zambrano. He lifted it just over the ivy in right-center to push the Pirates back in front for the first time since leading, 3-0, in the first. It also gave Jones his first career five-RBI game, something no Pirates player had done yet this season.
"I didn't know if it had enough air to get out, but just to drive the ball like that felt great," said Jones, who leads the club with 27 RBIs. "I've been missing balls for a few days."
Not to be outdone, McCutchen had a solo shot of his own an inning later, which was, of course, followed by another hit from Jones. McCutchen reached base in all six plate appearances. He scored five times and swiped two bases to push his season total to a National League-best 12.
McCutchen's batting average climbed to .336 by the end, placing him sixth among all National Leaguers.
"When they do things like that, we are capable of scoring runs pretty quickly," Russell said. "It's been a struggle for us. We'll take today."
That's because the pick-me-up provided by Jones and McCutchen came at the end of a week in which the Pirates' offense was virtually non-existent. The club had tallied only 10 runs in its past six games combined. Consider, too, that the team's 16 hits were not only a season high but also totaled six more than the Pirates had in their most recent three-game series.
On Friday, though, Pittsburgh wasted no time breaking out of its scoring drought, tagging former Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny for three runs in the first. That broke Pittsburgh's string of 19 scoreless innings.
While Jones and McCutchen owned the highlight reel, there was help elsewhere. Ryan Doumit and Lastings Milledge each reached base three times. Andy LaRoche scored twice, and even Jeff Clement came up with a big RBI single off the bench.
Despite the offense's fun afternoon, through six innings, it looked as if its effort might go to waste. Given a chance to extend his 13 1/3-scoreless-innings streak, Burres struggled from the get-go. The three-run lead the offense staked him to was gone before the left-hander made it out of the first.
Chicago batted around on its way to scoring four times in the opening inning, the final run scoring on yet another error by LaRoche. The third baseman has committed five errors in the team's past seven games.
Burres lasted four innings, giving up six runs (five earned) in what was his latest attempt to prove he belongs in the rotation.
"The team picked me up big time today," Burres said. "I found a lot of bats today. When I was throwing strikes, I wasn't hitting the corners. It was more right down the middle."
The same couldn't be said for the bullpen, which again turned in a terrific effort. Led by right-hander Evan Meek, who struck out four in two scoreless innings, the Pirates' 'pen allowed only one runner to reach second.