CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant may not be going to the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, but he put on a show on Friday afternoon. The Cubs' third baseman had four hits -- including an RBI triple, a solo home run and a two-run shot -- and he scored on Anthony Rizzo's 20th home run to lift Chicago to a 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh.
"You can say he put the team on his back there," Cubs starter Eddie Butler said of Bryant, who notched his 10th multihomer game and third this year.
Both teams struggled to come up with a big hit at the start. The Cubs were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and had stranded seven over the first three innings, leaving the bases loaded in the second. They finally broke through in the fourth. Ben Zobrist singled with two outs, and he scored on Bryant's triple down the left-field line. Rizzo then lined a fastball to right for his home run to open a 3-0 lead.
That was it for Pirates starter Trevor Williams, who has a Cubs connection. His father, Richard, grew up a diehard fan and skipped a week of school so he could watch games while waiting for Ernie Banks' 500th home run. Richard Williams was at the game Friday.
"We created some situations that he had to pitch out of the stretch, leverage situations, tight situations," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If you don't watch that game [and] watch how that man pitched in the fourth inning, you just look at that line tomorrow, you have no clue on the effort, the pitchability, the execution of so many pitches that he did have."
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Bryant was ahead, 3-0, against Jhan Marinez, took a pitch, then launched a fastball 427 feet to left that appeared to clear the bleachers for his 17th home run. Bryant needed a double to complete the cycle, but instead he added a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth. Bryant, who finished second in the National League Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote, said he didn't even know how close he was to the cycle.
"He was really locked in, and we're going to need that through the rest of the stretch before the All-Star break and take that into the second half," Butler said.
With the win, the Cubs are back at .500 for the 20th time this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Opportunity knocks: The Pirates had plenty of chances. They loaded the bases with two outs in the first, but Butler struck out Gregory Polanco to end the threat. In the second, Francisco Cervelli singled and reached third when left fielder Kyle Schwarber dropped Jordy Mercer's fly ball. Rookie Ian Happ collided with Schwarber after the left fielder appeared to have the ball in his glove, and Happ was charged with an error. Rizzo then threw out Cervelli at home as he tried to score on Williams' grounder.
"We've been playing here to where we know when the ball's not really carrying, you've got to get the runs when the opportunity presents itself," said Andrew McCutchen, who went 3-for-4 and scored the Pirates' only run. "Because as far as hitting the long ball, unless you're Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, you're more than likely not going to hit it out." More >
Welcome back: Schwarber was 0-for-4 on Thursday in his first game back from Triple-A Iowa, where he went to work on his swing after opening the season batting .171. He grounded out to end the first and stranded two runners, then popped up in the third. Schwarber then doubled to right to lead off the fifth for his first hit. He tried to score on Victor Caratini's grounder, but he was thrown out at home. The good news is he led with his left leg on his slide, which is the one that required surgery in April 2016 for two torn ligaments.
"We didn't think we were going to just roll out there and win. This league is too good, teams are too good. We know everyone in the league is just getting better, especially the Brewers coming into this year. You can't take any team in this league for granted." -- Rizzo
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With 20 home runs, 54 walks and 43 strikeouts, Rizzo is the first Cubs player with 20 homers and more walks than strikeouts before the All-Star break since Hall of Famer Billy Williams did so in 1970.
With two outs in the first, McCutchen hit a ball off the left-field wall and was credited with a double. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle questioned whether the ball went through the basket rimming the outfield wall, making it a home run. A crew-chief review confirmed the double call.
Schwarber was at first and Happ at second in the seventh when Jason Heyward lined out to Bell. The first baseman dived back to first, and Schwarber was called out for a double play. The Cubs challenged the ruling, but after a review, the call stood and Schwarber was out.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Ivan Nova (8-6, 3.24 ERA) will get the ball at 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday. Nova gave up four runs over six innings in his last outing.
Cubs:Jake Arrieta is 9-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 17 starts against the Pirates, but the game Pittsburgh fans remember is the 2015 Wild Card Game, when he threw a five-hit shutout. What Arrieta is focused on is finishing strong. He's coming off one of his best starts of the season, when he gave up one hit over seven scoreless innings against the Reds.