Bucs rally past Cubs for Wrigley sweep

Bucs rally past Cubs for Wrigley sweep

CHICAGO -- The Pirates just needed to get Jon Lester out of the game on Sunday to complete a sweep of the Cubs.

Pinch-runner Alen Hanson scored the tiebreaking run on Andrew McCutchen's fielder's choice despite a throw home from Anthony Rizzo, and Adam Frazier added a three-run homer in the ninth to lift the Pirates to a 6-1 victory over the Cubs and their first sweep at Wrigley Field since Sept. 5-7, 2014.

"It was important for us to come in here and play good baseball. We didn't play well here last year. They played really well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You want to come in and get in a better competitive state, and we have. We pitched well. Our bullpen was able to get some outs there. Offensively, we just stayed with the game."

Hanson scores after call stands

In sweep, Bucs show plenty of grit, character

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the seventh, but the Pirates loaded the bases in the eighth as Koji Uehara walked two and served up a double to Frazier. Jordy Mercer, whose error contributed to the Cubs' run, made up for it when he tied the game with an RBI single, the first run off Uehara this season. Hector Rondon took over and got Starling Marte to hit into a fielder's choice, forcing the runner at home.

McCutchen then hit a grounder to Rizzo, who threw home for the force. Hanson, who was running, was called safe, but the Cubs challenged the call. After a review, it was upheld.

"I felt like I had my foot on the plate," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said. "The throw was a little bit wide. To me, because I cannot leave my ankle on home plate, because I can get hurt. I don't know why they called him safe."

David Freese then flew out to right and Mercer, who was on third, didn't run. But Jason Heyward's throw home skipped past Contreras for an error, and Mercer scored.

Frazier connected off Justin Grimm in the ninth for his first homer of the season. The super-utility man finished 3-for-4 and is batting .343 with a .953 OPS. The late offense helped Jameson Taillon (seven innings, one unearned run) pick up first win of 2017.

Frazier's three-run homer

"That was huge. He helped get a run in my last start to get me off the hook, too," Taillon said of Frazier's homer. "He's a great hitter. He takes what you give him. He can slap balls to left all day. If you make a mistake, he's got enough pop to put it in the seats."

Stuck in late jam, Taillon says 'Let's dance'

Taillon picks up the win

Lester did not get a decision for the third straight start, despite throwing seven scoreless innings. Last season, the Cubs were swept in a three-game series at home just once, June 20-22, by the Cardinals.

Lester's great scoreless start

"In my opinion, [the Pirates] are probably the best competition in our division," Ben Zobrist said. "They proved it this series and played well as a group, and we didn't, so they took the series."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mercer's redemption: The Cubs took advantage of Pirates mistakes to score in the seventh. Heyward singled to lead off and reached second on a fielding error by Mercer, who bobbled Contreras' potential double-play grounder. Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella then doubled to left, driving in Heyward. Frazier made an effort as La Stella's hit deflected off the left fielder's glove. La Stella got the lineup card duties as a way to change the Cubs' luck after losing two straight to the Pirates. Mercer quickly atoned for his mistake, hitting a game-tying bloop single to center with the bases loaded in the eighth.

Mercer's game-tying RBI single

"You shake it off. You don't really think about it after it's over," Mercer said. "I gave one away, but you want to keep momentum going, pass-the-baton kind of thing. ... You'll take whatever. It's pretty nice to keep it going."

Catch up: David Ross would be proud of Contreras, who has taken over catching Lester and done his part to control the running game. Contreras threw out Mercer trying to steal in the first, then stole the show in the seventh when he picked off Freese at first, then threw out Josh Harrison trying to steal second.

Contreras' strong arm on display

"Willie's fine, Willie's done a really, really good job," Lester said. "He's still young, and our team is still young, and we'll have some growing pains here and there. Since I've worked with him, he's done nothing but a good job." More >

QUOTABLE
"We came in struggling, so we needed to turn it around. It was big for us to get these three wins. It doesn't matter when they are in the season." -- Frazier

"So-so. We had some good games, we've played a lot of close games. We taxed our bullpen quite a bit, which we really don't want to do. Our starters pitched really well but late in the game, we didn't score enough runs to give our bullpen any breathing room. I think that falls on the offense." -- Zobrist, when asked to assess the first two weeks of the Cubs' season

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Taillon, who owns a 0.90 ERA after three starts, has gone at least six innings in 15 of his 21 career starts. This was his fourth start of at least seven innings without allowing an earned run and his second such outing in three starts this season.

Taillon's inning-ending K

When the Pirates scored in the eighth, they snapped Uehara's scoreless innings streak at 20. It was the second-longest active streak in the Majors. Uehara was charged with a blown save, and the Cubs now have had a blown save in three straight games for the first time since May 8-10, 2000, vs. the Brewers.

UNDER REVIEW
Kyle Schwarber was on first in the Cubs' first when Kris Bryant hit a grounder to third baseman Harrison, who threw to second baseman Phil Gosselin for the force. Schwarber slid into second and then rolled, upending Gosselin, whose throw to first to get Bryant was not in time. The Pirates challenged the slide rule, and after a review, the call was overturned and Bryant was called out.

Pirates net DP in the 1st

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: The Pirates' seven-day, three-city trip will end in St. Louis, where they will begin a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday. Right-hander Ivan Nova will start for Pittsburgh, making his first career appearance against St. Louis. The Bucs hope to have left fielder Gregory Polanco (right groin discomfort) back in the lineup.

Cubs: John Lackey will make his third start of the season and second at Wrigley Field on Monday when the Cubs face the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. CT. Chicago took two out of three at Miller Park April 7-9. Lackey has posted quality starts in both of his previous outings.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.