PITTSBURGH -- Nearly a year ago, Jake Arrieta crushed the Pirates' postseason hopes before they could truly begin, tossing a shutout in the Cubs' National League Wild Card Game victory. On Wednesday night, John Jaso led Pittsburgh's recent revenge tour against the Cubs right-hander, hitting for the first cycle in PNC Park history as the Bucs scored seven runs off Arrieta in an 8-4 win.
The Pirates were officially eliminated from the postseason race late Tuesday night, but surely they took satisfaction in snapping their four-game losing streak -- especially against Arrieta, who seemed so untouchable this time last year, and particularly behind Jaso's rare feat. Jaso had three hits off Arrieta -- a single, a three-run homer and an RBI double -- before finishing the cycle with a triple to center field off reliever Pedro Strop in the seventh.
"It's just great to have these little moments in a season. You don't need to go to the postseason to celebrate as a team," said Jaso, who joined Hall of Famer Ray Schalk as the second player in Major League history to catch a perfect game (Felix Hernandez, 2012) and hit for the cycle. "We're family here. It's a great moment to recognize those blessings."
Arrieta entered the night 9-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 career starts against the Pirates. But they have scored 19 runs in their last three tries against Arrieta, apparently solving a nemesis who baffled them for more than a year and shut them down in their biggest game of last season.
"We've had some success. It doesn't change anything that's happened in the past. However, it gives us a new focus moving forward," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He'll be confident the next time we face him. We've got more confidence the next time we face him as well."
Meanwhile, the Bucs got a gem from rookie Jameson Taillon, making his final start of an impressive rookie season. After missing two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery and a hernia, Taillon posted a 3.38 ERA in 104 innings over 18 starts. He held the Cubs to just one hit and three walks while striking out four. The only hit he allowed in six innings was Anthony Rizzo's first-inning home run.
"I did want to set a tone. It's my first time pitching against these guys at home. I got to go against Arrieta, one of the best in the game," Taillon said. "I kind of want to go out and set a tone and send a message that we're still playing, we're still playing hard."
Arrieta's next start will come in the NL Division Series. He followed up his NL Cy Young Award-winning campaign by going 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 197 1/3 innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jaso, so good: Jaso pounded the ball around the spacious outfield of PNC Park to secure the club's first cycle since Daryle Ward turned the trick on May 26, 2004, in St. Louis. His second-inning single went to left field, and he lined a three-run homer into the right-field seats 21 feet above the Clemente Wall in the fourth. He swatted a double to right in the fifth inning, then went back to his up-the-middle approach in the seventh, blasting a triple to the base of the center-field wall. It was Jaso's third triple of the season and the 12th of his career.
"It didn't really dawn on me until I was standing on the base and looking at [third-base coach Rick] Sofield," Jaso said. "Then it kind of hit me." More >
Who's on first? Rizzo got the Cubs started with a solo homer in the first, his 32nd, which matches his career high set in 2014. He also made one defensive play as a second baseman. The Pirates had a runner at first and one out in the fourth when Taillon squared to bunt. Ben Zobrist was at first to hold the runner, and Rizzo was on the infield grass in anticipation of the bunt. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle mentioned to the umpires that if Zobrist was at first, he had to have a first baseman's glove. Rizzo and Zobrist got their proper gloves from the dugout, and Taillon bunted. Rizzo fielded the ball and threw to Zobrist at first. The official ruling was 4-3, which means Rizzo was considered the second baseman for that play.
"There's no actual rule that says you can't do that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's just interpretation by the crew chief. If they want us to be able to do that, we will. Nobody was upset. Two crews have said no, one crew has said yes. I still don't understand the dispute and why it's a big deal. We'll play good in the sand box. Just tell us what it is." More >
No rookie moves: Even after two years away from Minor League competition, Taillon turned out to be everything the Pirates hoped for in his rookie season. After posting a 3.38 ERA in 104 innings, Taillon is set to follow Gerrit Cole atop the Pirates' rotation next year. He efficiently worked six innings, the 12th time in his 18 starts he pitched at least six, and didn't allow a hit after Rizzo's homer. Taillon walked a season-high three batters, but command has proven to be his strength, as he issued only 17 free passes in the Majors this year.
"I haven't really had time to completely reflect on it yet. This is the dream," Taillon said. "This is where you want to be. Missing two years pitching in front of these fans and pitching for these guys is kind of what drove me. I got to realize a dream this year."
"It's kind of weird as far as baseball goes, like, who does have the upper hand when you face each other a lot? Does a pitcher have the upper hand because he's seen all the hitters, or do the hitters have the upper hand because they've seen the pitcher? A lot of things in baseball you can't really pin down to a formula. You just prepare, and a lot of it is in the preparation." -- Jaso, on the Pirates' sudden success against Arrieta
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Taillon is expected to be the Pirates' No. 2 starter next season, joining Cole atop the 2017 rotation. So perhaps it's a good sign that he finished with a 3.38 ERA. Why? That's the exact mark left-hander Francisco Liriano posted in 2014 and '15, when he was Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter and the club's second-best arm behind Cole.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
On Rizzo's homer, the umpires called for a crew-chief review to determine whether a fan interfered with the ball before it reached the stands. The call was quickly confirmed, and Rizzo's home run remained on the board. (The ball, however, was taken by the fan to the top of the bleachers and hurled into the Allegheny River.)
With Zobrist on first base and nobody out in the top of the fourth, the Pirates challenged the call that Jason Heyward was safe at first base. After a replay review, the call was overturned and Heyward was out to complete a double play.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Rookie Rob Zastryzny will make his first Major League start on Thursday in the Cubs' series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park. The Cubs want to give the rest of the rotation a breather heading into the postseason, so it'll be a bullpen day. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.
Pirates: Right-hander Ivan Nova will make his final start of the season as the Pirates wrap up their home schedule against the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. ET. Nova will be a free agent at the end of the season, though he has expressed an interest in remaining in Pittsburgh if possible.