Cubs outlast Bucs in 12, cut Wild Card lead

Cubs outlast Bucs in 12, cut Wild Card lead

PITTSBURGH -- Jake Arrieta has been picking up the Cubs all season. On Wednesday night, the Cubs returned the favor. Four innings after Arrieta's first crack at a 20th win went by way of a frenetic tying Pirates rally, Anthony Rizzo's 12th-inning sacrifice fly gave the Cubs a 3-2 win on Roberto Clemente Day at PNC Park.

Chris Denorfia led off the 12th with a single off Vance Worley, making his first Major League appearance since July 24, and pinch-runner Quintin Berry took second on a wild pitch and stopped at third on Austin Jackson's single before scoring on Rizzo's liner to left.

With the victory, the Cubs moved within three games of the Bucs, who hold the National League's top seed for the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, and kept the NL Central-leading Cardinals in their sights. The Cubs remained seven games behind St. Louis, and the Pirates fell to four games out.

Pirates take measure of likely Wild Card foe

The Pirates' first run scored on an Arrieta throwing error in the sixth, and they tied it at 2 on a run-scoring infield dribbler with the based loaded by Gregory Polanco -- which, after an ensuing rundown, turned into an inning-ending double play, but not before pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez scored from third base.

Cubs-Bucs tilt gets wild in 8th to force extras

"We were facing one of the best pitchers in the league and were down, 2-0, late," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle of Arrieta. "That guy is tough to hit. We scratched, tied the game up. We battled."

Doubling up:
 Cubs second baseman Starlin Castro started a terrifc double play in the ninth to force extra innings. After Starling Marte singled to lead off against Pedro Strop, Aramis Ramirez hit the ball toward center with one out. Castro dove behind second to snare the ball, then flipped to shortstop Javier Baez, who was covering at second, for the force. Baez then fired to first to get Ramirez.

"That was a great play, and I told [Castro] so later," said Ramirez, who wore a stunned look as he pulled up after crossing first base. "Probably a game-saver, because Marte would've gone to third on that, if it gets through." More >

Castro's terrific stop starts DP

Marte throws up a roadblock: The Pirates could have been in trouble after pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella doubled with one out in the 11th -- if he had doubled. But after digging out his liner into the left-field corner, Marte easily nailed La Stella going into second with a brilliant throw. It was Marte's 13th assist of the season, tops among NL outfielders.

Marte's throw nabs La Stella

Start me up: Arrieta was denied in his bid for his 20th win as the Pirates rallied to tie the game at 2 in the eighth. This was the right-hander's first bid at 20, which would have led the Majors. He scattered six hits over eight innings, and only one of the runs was earned, so his ERA actually dropped to 1.96. This was Arrieta's first no-decision since July 30 -- he had won eight in a row.

"[The team win] is the most important aspect of the night," Arrieta said. More >

Arrieta's eight strong frames

Bucs "rally" on the board: The Pirates got a run off Arrieta in the sixth, but they didn't exactly break through against him. Arrieta fielded Marte's soft two-out comebacker and made an easy toss to first -- too high for Rizzo to handle. Polanco scored from second on the error, but the inning ended as Rizzo retrieved the errant toss and nailed Marte trying to advance to second.

Polanco scores on error

Tough enough: A.J. Burnett, making his second start for the Bucs since a six-week stay on the DL with a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow, was at his dogged best through five innings, in each of which the Cubs had baserunners but did not score. Burnett had a string of nine shutout innings before giving up a two-spot in the sixth, started by Kris Bryant's RBI double.

Bryant's RBI double

"I need to throw more first strikes to certain hitters," Burnett said. "But, otherwise, I'm getting there. I threw some good pitches to all of them except that guy [Bryant, who went 3-for-3, with two doubles, against him]."

Burnett whiffs seven over 5 1/3

The Pirates lost possibly their biggest challenge of the season in the eighth inning -- temporarily delaying their game-tying rally. Josh Harrison bounced to short with runners at the corners and none out, and Pedro Florimon, representing the tying run, was tagged out at the plate on Baez's throw to catcher Miguel Montero. The Bucs' bench challenged based on a possible violation of the no-blocking rule, but the call was confirmed upon a quick review.

Statcast: Baez's laser throw

"It still has meaning -- and it's meaningful to me to not let it happen tonight." -- Hurdle on 20 wins, before the Bucs prevented Arrieta from reaching the milestone

"One of the things I've always used as a benchmark is an extra-inning win on the road. That's not easy to do. Under these circumstances, in this place, at this time of year, I'm really proud of our effort." -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon

• With Bryant's double leading off the second, the Cubs have an extra-base hit in 49 straight games since July 26. It's their longest streak since doing so in 52 consecutive games from July 3-Aug. 30, 2011.

Bryant's leadoff double

• This was the Pirates' second extra-inning loss on their current homestand, following Thursday's 6-4 defeat in 13 innings to Milwaukee; the Bucs' previous extra-inning loss had come on June 25, and they had won eight straight in extras.

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks will close the series in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The right-hander is coming off a win over the Phillies in which he posted his first quality start in his last seven outings, giving up three runs over 6 2/3 innings. He's 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts against the Pirates this season. First pitch is scheduled for 11:35 a.m. CT.

Pirates: Charlie Morton puts his 6-2 home record on the line when he faces the Cubs on Thursday at 12:35 p.m. ET in the finale of the penultimate homestand of the regular season. The Bucs have won eight of the right-hander's 10 home starts.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.