Pirates wait out the rain before downing Cubs

McCutchen continues June tear; Polanco notches first big league RBI

Pirates wait out the rain before downing Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- The most impressive thing about Gregory Polanco's first career game-winning RBI, on Wednesday night, was that it was a game-winning RBI. The Pirates won Polanco's second big league game, and he contributed to it.

This was only logical in a game that was delayed 98 minutes by rain and did not end until near midnight. In a late game, you need some strong El Coffee, and the young man with that nickname provided some timely grounds.

While Polanco's go-ahead RBI groundout in the second inning proved decisive, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Cumpton had bigger hands in the Bucs' 4-2 victory over the Cubs at soggy PNC Park.

The rains that held up the game also dramatically cooled off the air temperature. They had no effect on McCutchen however. He has 16 hits in June, and 13 of them have been for extra bases -- seven doubles and six homers -- after getting one of each Wednesday night.

"I'm keeping myself ready to hit, and not missing the pitch when they give it to me," McCutchen said. "I do feel really good, seeing the ball."

"This is hot," manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he gets a pitch to hit, he's not missing it. Once this calendar month flipped, he's hit another gear."

Cumpton was in a heap of trouble in his last inning, for which he was thankful.

"I'm actually happy I got to go through that," Cumpton said of escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. "Sometimes you need to work on that -- get in trouble, get out of it. A huge confidence-builder for me."

Polanco's contribution came early and on a mere grounder with the bases loaded. No matter -- Polanco's first Major League RBI broke a 2-2 tie, so it was a big one.

McCutchen wasted little time taking advantage of Jason Hammel's second first-inning walk of the season, to leadoff man Josh Harrison. McCutchen lashed a 1-0 pitch into the left-field-corner seats for his 10th homer of the season, and third in as many games.

Except for coming from a guy running his usual June temperature, there was nothing routine about this one: Chicago left fielder Chris Coghlan soared at the wall for the ball and had it kiss off the tip of his glove webbing and into a waiting fan's grab ... as McCutchen, seeing this as he rounded first, mouthed, "Wow!"

"I definitely would've gone out there and high-fived him, if he would've caught that," McCutchen said. "That was a really good effort, kind of what I was laughing at. If he would've caught that, I wouldn't have been mad. I would've been impressed, like, 'That's a play no one's gonna top, and at least I was a part of it, I guess. On the wrong end, but still a part of it.'"

"I used the wall, so it made me look a little better," Coghlan said. "I had the ball, I could've caught it but the guy got in the way. His hands were up. It's a good place to be able to rob a home run, because the wall's not that tall. I felt I went a couple rows deep and I had it, but the fan was there. If I'm the home team, I'm doing that every time. I'm not on the guy at all."

Cumpton's first lead was quickly gone, the Cubs drawing even in the second on John Baker's RBI single and a run-scoring grounder by Darwin Barney.

However, the next time he was given a lead, on Polanco's RBI grounder, Cumpton held onto it, giving the Bucs a chance to extend their edge. Pedro Alvarez tripled with one away in the third and scored on Starling Marte's single, stretching the lead to 4-2.

Cumpton hung another zero in the fourth.

Then, from shutdown to pick up, Cumpton picked up his infielders in a mighty way in the fifth. Alvarez turned Justin Ruggiano's one-out grounder to third into a souvenir in the first-base seats and his 14th error. Ike Davis gloved, but didn't hold onto, a two-out liner to first by Luis Valbuena that was somehow scored a single and loaded the bases.

Cumpton then stood tall by getting Nate Schierholtz to swing through strike three, protecting the 4-2 lead.

"Started him off with a change, then a fastball in, and the slider in the dirt to get him to chase," Cumpton said. "The whole kitchen sink right there."

Those high-pressure pitches were the last of Cumpton's 91, so he was predictably gassed after that escape, and made way for the bullpen. The shuttle was both familiar and familiarly nails: Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli -- the latter earning his 10th save in his first opportunity in eight days -- no-hit the Cubs over the final four innings.

In five innings, Cumpton gave up five hits while walking two and fanning five. The two runs represented the sixth time in his first 11 big league starts that he did not allow more than that.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.