PITTSBURGH -- The scuffling Cubs had everything in their favor Friday night at PNC Park. Ace Jake Arrieta was on the mound, All-Star Anthony Rizzo and Miguel Montero each hit home runs. But the red-hot Pirates had other plans.
"Before, everything was pretty, and now everything is kind of ugly," Montero said. "It's baseball. You get a lot of ups and downs. … There's another game tomorrow."
Rizzo gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead with his 21st home run with two outs in the seventh, but he was charged with a throwing error that led to the Pirates' go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates had runners at first and second when John Jaso hit an RBI single to tie the game and chase Arrieta.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle thought the team battled Arrieta well throughout the game.
"I saw it at times, at other times he'd make really good pitches in counts, balls looked hittable then they'd move not where you'd think they were," Hurdle said. "To start with three in the second, then to battle back and get more late, I thought we stayed in the hunt. I thought we were competitive in the box."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Raise the flag, or ring the Bell? With Adam Frazier on first base and the Pirates down 4-3 in the seventh inning, Josh Bell pinch-hit for pitcher Neftali Feliz and singled on a line drive in his first Major League at-bat. Fittingly, Bell was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis Friday to provide a bat off the bench. The hit moved Frazier into scoring position, and Jaso plated him with an RBI single, tying the game at 4-4. Bell then scored the go-ahead run on Rizzo's throwing error. More >
All-Star ace: Arrieta is the pitcher the Pirates love to hate after he ousted Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card Game last October. The right-hander served up home runs to Freese and Rodriguez in the second inning, the second time this season he's given up two homers in a game, but the right-hander exited after Jaso's RBI single in the seventh tied the score at 4. The reigning National League Cy Young winner began the season 11-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his first 14 starts. He was charged with a season-high six earned runs Friday, and now is 1-3 and has given up 16 earned runs in his last four games.
"They made it difficult for me," Arrieta said. "I probably pitched to contact too much in certain situations. I need to find that happy medium of getting ahead and getting on the corners and not let breaking balls catch too much of the plate. Overall, just came up short." More >
On-time delivery: The Cubs have struggled to deliver clutch hits lately, especially since leadoff man Dexter Fowler went on the disabled list on June 19. Since then, Chicago was batting .190 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs didn't waste a one-out triple by Jason Heyward in the fourth. He tallied on Javier Baez's groundout to pull within 3-1. Montero, who was 2-for-7 in his last four games, delivered in the sixth when he launched his fifth homer, a two-run shot, to tie the score at 3. Chicago stranded nine baserunners and has left 42 on base in the last five games.
They're human, after all: The Pirates took full advantage of mistakes by the division-leading Cubs. In the seventh inning, Polanco reached on a throwing error by first baseman Rizzo, allowing Bell to score. A wild pitch by Trevor Cahill in the eighth plated Jordy Mercer and gave the Pirates an 8-4 lead.
"When things aren't going your way, those moments show up. We're leaving way too many folks on base. When you're not able to score runs like we had been, everything else that's a negative is magnified. We're unable to play through our mistakes right now, and probably in the beginning of the year, we did. ... No excuses, we have to do better." -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon
"Stereotypical Frazier AB, going from 0-2 then drawing a walk or fighting for seven, eight pitches, and then possibly tiring the pitcher out and giving me a cookie." -- Bell, on Frazier's long at-bat paving the way for his first Major League hit
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With two homers on Friday, the Cubs have 118 for the season, a franchise record for before the All-Star break. The previous high was 117, set in 1987 and 2000.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: All-Star Jon Lester was the NL Pitcher of the Month in June after going 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA. He had the shortest start of his career on Sunday against the Mets, giving up eight runs on nine hits, including three homers, over 1 1/3 innings. He'll be paired with rookie catcher Willson Contreras, who is filling in while David Ross is on the seven-day concussion disabled list. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CT.
Pirates:Chad Kuhl will make his third Major League start on Saturday at 7:15 ET, having established a 1-0 record, 4.09 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in two outings. The Pirates have bounced back from a 9-19 June by winning seven of their first eight games in July.