Pirates top Cubs, move into first-place tie

Pirates top Cubs, move into first-place tie

Pirates top Cubs, move into first-place tie

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates rallied to defeat the Cubs, 2-1, in front of a sold-out crowd of 35,534 on Saturday night at PNC Park. Pittsburgh moved back into a first-place tie with the Cardinals in the National League Central after St. Louis lost to the Mariners.

Marlon Byrd homered off Cubs reliever James Russell with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to power the Pirates to the victory. The home run was the 23rd for Byrd, and his second since he was acquired by the Pirates.

"I was sitting on one pitch trying to get a fastball and just try to elevate it," Byrd said. "He left it on the plate just enough so I could put a good swing on it."

The win got the Pirates back on track after they lost Friday night. The Reds, who defeated the Brewers on Saturday and hold the second NL Wild Card spot, are 2 1/2 games behind the Bucs and Cardinals.

The Pirates got a solid outing from rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole, who hurled seven innings and allowed one run on five hits. Cole struck out seven and upped his record to 8-7.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was impressed with Cole's outing.

"The kid's establishing himself out there," Hurdle said. "He got nicked with a run in the first, a great relay to keep it at one run. As the game went on he got better and he got stronger. The sixth inning was his best ...

"Coming off his best inning, we got in a hornets' nest in the seventh and you saw that young man go to work, absolutely went to work and pitched another very big inning for himself. [He's] growing up for the team down the stretch here to get out of that inning and get the ball to the back end of the bullpen."

It was the first time the Cubs had seen Cole in person.

"I think that at-bat against [Dioner] Navarro [in the seventh], that was key. What you see is what you get, a guy with the power and the savvy at a young age," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "A power arm, and to know Navy and how he set that at-bat up and rear back and throw 97, 98, that's a nice asset to have. I was more impressed with how sharp his breaking balls were than his velocity.

"We had a couple chances. That's the magic of velocity and power and power breaking balls."

Cole worked himself out of a big jam when the Cubs had runners on second and third with one out in the seventh inning. He struck out Navarro and got Starlin Castro to ground out to escape the inning unscathed.

"It's about bending and not breaking, and it's about giving up a few hits and putting your foot down," Cole said. "You've just got to be tough out there, because you're not going to be perfect. You've just got to keep rolling with the punches and know when to duck and know when to punch back."

Cubs right-hander Scott Baker, who was making his second start of the season, was impressive. He tossed six innings of one-run ball and surrendered three hits to finish with a no-decision. Russell took the loss and fell to 1-6 on the season.

"His last start was about the same -- not many hits," Hurdle said of Baker. "The ball is moving. He was able to pitch up in the zone and stay up in the zone at our hands and higher, and we weren't able to get the ball down and weren't able to square too many balls up."

The Cubs jumped on Cole for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Castro led off with a single. With one out, Anthony Rizzo drew a walk. Nate Schierholtz doubled to score Castro, but Rizzo was cut down at the plate as Pirates right fielder Byrd threw to second baseman Neil Walker, who gunned a perfect strike to catcher Russell Martin.

The Pirates finally got to Baker in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jose Tabata stroked his fifth home run of the season. The shot tied the game at 1.

Closer Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 15th save.

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.