Six-run 5th helps Cubs put stamp on 7-4 trip

Six-run 5th helps Cubs put stamp on 7-4 trip

PITTSBURGH -- Mission accomplished for the Cubs, who took three of four against the Pirates, finished their longest road trip with a 7-4 record and, even more important, were able to string together some hits in a six-run fifth inning en route to a 9-6 win on Thursday at PNC Park.

With the win, the Cubs now are two games behind the Pirates in the National League Wild Card standings.

Manager Joe Maddon would like to see more innings like the fifth. The Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate that inning, and the first eight reached before the Pirates were able to record an out. Anthony Rizzo launched his 30th homer, Addison Russell notched his second RBI of the game, and even reliever Clayton Richard joined in, hitting a two-run double. Richard then scored on Tommy La Stella's single.

"That felt good," Richard said of his hit.

The Cubs have scored more runs in one inning this season -- on Sept. 4, they tallied eight in one frame against the D-backs -- but the offensive surge was much needed. Each of the three previous games in this nail-biter series had been decided by one run.

"That's the one thing we have to get better at is driving in runners," Maddon said. "We've got to clean that up. I'm not complaining -- the effort is fabulous. You have to use the velvet-hammer approach because if you talk about it too much, you continue to do bad at it. You have to do it the right way to change their mental outlook."

The Cubs rank second in the NL in the second half in runs scored, but still lag in batting average with runners in scoring position. They'll keep tinkering.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton had cruised through the third and fourth innings, so the Cubs' outburst was a little bit of a surprise.

"The ball got up a little bit, the fastball command was inconsistent today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Morton. "The ball got elevated in that inning. It actually was a changeup he threw to Rizzo that cut. Instead of going down, it cut right into the barrel.

"It was a rough day all over the place for all of us," Hurdle said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.