Bucs to Cubs: Your streak stops here

Bucs to Cubs: Your streak stops here

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco gave the Pirates an early lead on Wednesday with a game-opening homer. When that lead was gone, Polanco snapped a tie with a single in the sixth inning. That lead held up, and the Bucs downed the Cubs, 7-5, to halt their six-game winning streak.

Pittsburgh's reconstructed bullpen combined to hold Chicago scoreless for 3 1/3 innings after starter Jeff Locke was chased in the top of the sixth, when homers by Kyle Schwarber, a two-run shot, and Anthony Rizzo tied the score at 4. Mark Melancon gave up his first run since June 5 before finishing it up for his 34th save, and 32nd in a row.

"It was a strength before, and there's more depth to it now," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his bullpen, which gained two new arms at last week's non-waiver Trade Deadline, including former Detroit closer Joakim Soria, who contributed a perfect seventh inning on Wednesday. "I'm real pleased with the way it's setting up."

Dan Haren, in his first start for the Cubs after his acquisition from the Marlins on Friday, went five innings -- his shortest start since May 12 -- and allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits, including solo home runs by Polanco and Andrew McCutchen, who also wound up with two RBIs.

Cutch's solo homer

"The first inning was no good. I made a bad pitch right out of the gates," Haren said of his 29-pitch first, which began with Polanco's homer. "Stuff got going pretty quickly there. After that it was all right."

Quick turnaround: Locke pitched up -- and down -- to his reputation of either being very good or bad, with little middle ground. After hurling two-hit ball through 5 1/3 innings, he let the Cubs rally for a 4-4 tie by surrendering homers to lefty hitters Schwarber and Rizzo in a space of three batters -- after having allowed two homers to left-handers in 109 plate appearances all season.

"I walked [Dexter Fowler] then left a couple balls up and gave up two homers. Everything else was great," Locke said of his odd stint.

Left loaded: A night after manager Joe Maddon once again lamented the Cubs' left-on-base numbers, Chicago stranded three runners in a key situation in the sixth inning. After Rizzo's two-out homer tied it up, the Cubs loaded the bases with a hit and two walks off Pirates reliever Jared Hughes. Maddon sent Chris Coghlan to pinch-hit for Haren, but Coghlan grounded out to first base to end the threat.

Rookie mistake? Kris Bryant made a pair of costly misplays at third base, both of them leading to runs. In the first inning, a grounder from Jung Ho Kang bounced off Bryant's glove to load the bases. Two batters later, Pedro Alvarez singled home McCutchen. Then, with two outs in the fifth, Bryant and Starlin Castro got crossed up on a ground ball hit by Aramis Ramirez. The ball slipped past both of them and into left field, allowing Starling Marte to score and put the Bucs ahead by three runs.

Aramis' RBI single

"It just was hit at a speed and at a spot [where] it just messed them up," Maddon said. "Young guys will get it right. It's just one of those moments that was very awkward."

"We're coming off a tremendous road trip. There's nothing to lament about these several days on the road." -- Maddon, on a disappointing end to the Cubs' 5-1 trip through Milwaukee and Pittsburgh

"Biggest pitch of the night for me. Absolutely, biggest at-bat and biggest pitch. A real, real efficient one-pitch outing." -- Hurdle, on left-hander Antonio Bastardo, who entered a 4-4 game with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth and got pinch-hitter Coghlan to bounce the first pitch to first baseman Alvarez

Bastardo escapes jam

The crowd of 35,759 put the Pirates, after 54 home dates, about 83,000 ahead of their record pace of 2014, when they wound up with an all-time Pittsburgh record draw of 2,442,564.

Cubs: Wrigley Field awaits the Cubs and Giants, who will kick off a four-game series with potential postseason implications at 7:05 p.m. CT on Thursday. Though they're still taking aim at the Cardinals and Pirates, the Cubs are locked in a battle with the Giants for the second National League Wild Card spot. Right-hander Jason Hammel will start opposite rookie Chris Heston.

Pirates: Following an off-day on Thursday, a marquee pitching matchup will kick off a weekend series at PNC Park with the National League West-leading Dodgers. Major League wins leader Gerrit Cole will hook up with lefty Clayton Kershaw, who brings a scoreless streak of 37 innings to town. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.