PITTSBURGH -- The last time the Pirates and Cubs took the field at PNC Park, Chicago beat up on Pittsburgh's ace and stifled the Bucs' bats en route to a National League Wild Card Game victory. The circumstances may have been different, but the script was largely the same in the Cubs' 7-2 win on Monday night.
"It was our night to come up a little bit short across the board," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates jumped out to an early lead on Andrew McCutchen's homer, but the Cubs struck back quickly and decisively, pounding out six runs and chasing Cole before he could get out of the fifth inning. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each drove in a run in the third inning, and David Ross led a four-run fifth by driving in two runs and instigating a delayed double steal that brought home another run.
"That was nice," Ross said. "You've got to come up with a big hit when you have the opportunity. All these guys putting work in and you're the weak link to get exposed, so it was nice to get one to fall in for me. I had hit some hard before that, so it was nice to get one to dink in."
Cole allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 innings, walking four batters and striking out six. He allowed the leadoff man to get on base -- and safely reach second -- in each of his first four innings. Twice it was Dexter Fowler, who continued his scorching start with two hits, a walk and two steals.
Cole struggled to locate his fastball and didn't have much better luck with his offspeed offerings, running up a high pitch count (105) and frequently falling behind Cubs hitters.
"I would say out of sync is a good way of describing it," Cole said. "There really wasn't a whole lot of command, period. Didn't really have anything we could go to."
Furthering the Wild Card Game comparisons, things got chippy in the seventh inning after Pirates lefty Kyle Lobstein hit Zobrist with a pitch, bringing to mind the moment Tony Watson plunked Jake Arrieta last October.
"It's always fun to vent, isn't it? We all vent," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's the worst possible thing you can do for your health long-term is to hold that stuff in. So I had to get that out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Double trouble: For the second straight day, a delayed double steal flummoxed the Pirates. On Sunday, the Reds executed the play and scored when Bucs catcher Chris Stewart lost control of the ball while trying to tag the runner. This time, Ross took off for second base and Matt Szczur eventually broke for home. Second baseman Josh Harrison set up the play well but his throw sailed well over catcher Francisco Cervelli's head, allowing Szczur to score and punctuating the Cubs' four-run fifth inning. Szczur exited after the inning with a hamstring issue.
"We've done everything but get an out right at the end," Hurdle said.
Cubs bounce back: After falling behind, 1-0, the Cubs got to Cole for two runs in the third inning. Rizzo delivered an RBI double and scored on a single by Zobrist.
Cutch happened: McCutchen's solo shot to right-center was his team-leading sixth home run. McCutchen went 1-for-12 over the weekend and hadn't driven in a run since his three-homer performance at Coors Field on Tuesday. McCutchen drove in the Pirates' second run in the fifth inning with groundout to third base, scoring Jordy Mercer.
"I throw 87, so I've got to pitch inside and make guys uncomfortable. I'm going to hit some guys with that philosophy. That happens." -- Lobstein, on hitting Zobrist
"Even if he didn't have the best stuff, the game was 2-1 in the fifth. We had our chance." -- Cervelli, on Cole's outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs have only lost six games so far this season. They've also yet to experience a losing streak: They're 6-0 in games after a loss.
REPLAY REVIEW TIMES TWO Jason Rogers' grounder to third base with no outs in the seventh inning prompted back-to-back challenges, one from each side. The initial call was a double play, with Mercer out at second and Rogers at first. Hurdle challenged both outs, and after a four-minute, 53-second review, Rogers was ruled safe. Since one call was overturned, the Bucs retained their challenge.
Immediately after that, Maddon challenged that there was no violation of the slide rule at second base. The call was confirmed after 46 seconds, and Rogers remained at first base.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA) will be on the hill for the Cubs in the second game of this three-game series against the Pirates on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Arrieta is 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA in nine career regular-season starts against the Pirates, and he shut them out in the NL Wild Card Game last year.
Pirates: The Bucs will get their highly anticipated rematch with Arrieta on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Pittsburgh will counter with lefty Jonathon Niese (3-0, 5.08 ERA), who gave up five runs on 10 hits in five innings Wednesday at hitter-friendly Coors Field.