PITTSBURGH -- Traditional baseball wisdom says you should never make the first or third out of an inning at third base. But what about the first and the third out? Two Pirates ran into outs at third base in the eighth inning Tuesday night, but they still rallied to beat the Cubs, 4-3, at PNC Park for their fourth straight victory.
The Cubs carried a one-run lead into the eighth after 6 2/3 strong innings from right-hander Kyle Hendricks, backed by a two-run single from Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly. Carl Edwards Jr. took over from there, recording the final out of the seventh and returning to pitch the eighth.
John Jaso started the rally with a leadoff walk, hustled to third on Starling Marte's single to right and scored the tying run on a bloop single to left by Max Moroff. But Marte, the go-ahead run, was thrown out by Jon Jay as he tried to take third.
"You don't want to run into that out at that particular point in time of the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was tough making two outs in that inning on the bases."
Edwards struck out Andrew McCutchen, but Moroff moved to second on a wild pitch. With first base open, the Cubs intentionally walked switch-hitting slugger Josh Bell to bring up David Freese. The veteran third baseman lined a 104.5-mph single, as projected by Statcast™, to center field, bringing home Moroff and putting the Pirates ahead by one run.
"David's shown the ability throughout this season [to have] big at-bats, getting on base," Hurdle said. "Another one tonight. … It was a fun game to watch, and we just stayed after it."
"I feel really strongly about [Edwards] in that situation," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's who he is, and he had a couple of days off. He didn't have his best day, and they beat us."
The Cubs have lost three games in a row, but they maintained a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League Central, as the Brewers also lost Tuesday night.
The Pirates' bullpen had been preparing for three different outcomes. If they were tied heading into the ninth inning, they would have brought in Daniel Hudson. If they were losing, it would have been Joaquin Benoit. But when they took the lead and created a save situation, it was time for closer Felipe Rivero.
He didn't have much time to get ready, however, as the Cubs caught Bell trying to take third base, just as they did Marte.
"I think JB was hungry, so just end the inning and get [Rivero] out there," Freese said, smiling.
Quickly summoned into action, Rivero struck out two and needed only 11 pitches to work a perfect ninth inning and record his 18th save.
"They had to do some musical chairs and work [to get ready] out there," Hurdle said. "Obviously he got ready."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED Jordan rules: Rookie outfielder Jordan Luplow seems to have found his comfort zone since recording his first Major League hit and homer on Saturday night. Luplow's second big league blast, a two-run shot, came off Hendricks in the second inning, a Statcast-projected 431-foot shot to left-center field. Hendricks' 85.5-mph sinker came off Luplow's bat at 104.7 mph and wound up being the second-longest homer hit by a Pirate this season at PNC Park. Only Gregory Polanco hit one farther, crushing a 434-foot shot on Aug. 4.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself -- unnecessary pressure on myself -- to get that first one," said Luplow, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Pirates' No. 21 prospect. "These guys have helped me settle in and helped me learn every day, especially with these [pitchers] I haven't faced before."
What a relief: Trailing by a run, the Pirates asked left-hander Wade LeBlanc to cover three innings against a dangerous Cubs lineup stacked with right-handed hitters. LeBlanc was clearly up to the task. The veteran pitched three perfect innings on only 33 pitches with one strikeout and five groundouts.
"Once LeBlanc came in with his changeup, it changed for us," Maddon said.
"It's what we were able to see the first half of the season from Wade," Hurdle said. "He mixed his pitches well. … He's never been pushed as far as making pitches and getting after things against right-handed hitters. He changes speeds. He moves the ball around. Threw strikes. He was very efficient."
"John shows up every day and prepares to help you find a way to beat the other team, and he does it quietly. He started the rally. … He's been an impact guy off the bench as far as swinging the bat, and he has done some nice things on the bases. He's got baseball awareness."-- Hurdle, on Jaso's successful first-to-third attempt in the eighth inning
"Hendricks is tough, man. I'm sure a lot of people are sitting around the last two years wondering how people don't hit this guy, but [his pitches have] a lot of movement. He knows what he's doing. He uses the strike zone. That late movement gets it off the barrel."-- Freese, on Hendricks' effective start
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Making his first big league start of the season, Pirates left-hander Steven Brault allowed three runs over five innings without a strikeout. He was the first lefty to make a start all season for the Pirates, who played their 139th game on Tuesday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the latest into a season that Pittsburgh had started all right-handed pitchers; the previous high was all 137 games during the 1891 season.
Brault was also the seventh different starting pitcher used by the Pirates this season, half the total they used a year ago. The club record for fewest starters used in one season is seven (1902, '72 and '97).
Brault became the second Pirates pitcher this season to not record a strikeout in a start, as Trevor Williams did over 5 2/3 innings against the Phillies on May 19.
"I was having trouble finishing hitters. That was the biggest problem I had," Brault said. "That'll solve all my problems. It'll increase the consistency of being able to attack people. It'll increase my effectiveness. And it'll increase my efficiency of being able to go late into games. That's what I'm going to be working on these next few days."
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Left-hander Jose Quintana probably won't get the same run support Wednesday as in his previous start, when the Cubs beat the Pirates, 17-3. Quintana recorded a quality start in that game, but he has struggled since joining Chicago at the All-Star break -- especially in August, when he posted a 5.73 ERA. First pitch is 6:05 p.m. CT.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole will start for the Pirates as they continue their four-game series against the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. ET. Cole has typically fared well against the NL Central leaders, carrying a 9-3 record and 2.74 ERA in 13 career meetings with the Cubs.