Pirates steaming toward All-Star break

Pirates steaming toward All-Star break

PITTSBURGH -- Manager Clint Hurdle apologized for the cliche, but the Pirates do, in fact, try to take it day by day.

To Hurdle, every game is an opportunity to establish a rhythm. In June, that rhythm never came, as the Pirates went 9-19 and found themselves four games below .500 on June 28. It has been a different story in July, highlighted by Friday's 8-4 win over the division-leading Chicago Cubs led by Jake Arrieta.

The three-game series with Chicago is Pittsburgh's last obstacle before the All-Star break. At 52-34, the Cubs hold a firm lead on the NL Central, but the Pirates' performance on Friday helps legitimize their midseason resurgence. Pittsburgh won seven of nine games on its recent road trip to Seattle, Oakland and St. Louis, and has now won 11 of its last 14 games.

"It's a good opportunity to get some things done at home before the break," Hurdle said.

Historically stymied by Arrieta, the Pirates got to the right-hander for six earned runs on nine hits. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who struggled mightily in June, went 3-for-4 and drove in an insurance run after the Pirates had gone ahead in the seventh inning.

Entering Friday, the Pirates were 3-12 in their last 15 games against the Cubs, which makes this win a significant one -- especially when considering that it came at the expense of Arrieta, who had been 9-1 against Pittsburgh.

McCutchen, for his part, didn't take particular joy in the win.

"No, because we just had an amazing road trip," McCutchen said. "We've done a really good job. This isn't something that's going to propel us more -- we've already been doing our job thus far. We've been playing some good baseball, so we will just continue that."

Pittsburgh will face All-Star Jon Lester (9-4, 2.67 ERA) on Saturday and right-hander John Lackey (7-5, 3.50 ERA) on Sunday.

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.