Turner, Cubs flat after Pirates turn triple play

Righty allows seven runs over 4 1/3; Szczur hits into rare feat in fourth

Turner, Cubs flat after Pirates turn triple play

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Szczur hit the ball hard at the wrong time for the Cubs on Sunday.

Szczur, one of the fastest players on the Cubs, hit into a triple play in the fourth inning started by Josh Harrison, who also drove in two runs to lead the Pirates to a 7-3 come-from-behind victory.

The Pirates stayed alive in the National League Central race while continuing to hold the second NL Wild Card. The Cubs, on the other hand, lost for the eighth time in their last nine games and ended their road trip 1-5. Chicago struggled to generate any offense without Anthony Rizzo (back), Jorge Soler (paternity leave) and Starlin Castro (ankle). It didn't help when the Pirates thwarted a rally with their web gem.

Chicago led 3-0 when Chris Valaika doubled to lead off the fourth against Edinson Volquez, who then walked Mike Olt. But Szczur smacked the ball to Harrison at third base to start the first triple play at PNC Park and the first the Cubs have hit into since May 14, 2000, at Montreal.

"It was a heck of a play," Szczur said. "I was looking for a good pitch to hit and something to hit hard, and it was probably the wrong time I hit the ball hard."

Szczur remembers he and Logan Watkins were on the bases once for a triple play while at Class A Daytona. That was the last one he could remember.

"I thought I was going to [beat the throw]," Szczur said. "It was close. I put a good swing on it and tried to get out of the box as fast as I could. Wrong time to hit it hard, that's for sure."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria felt Szczur had a chance.

"He hit it right on the nose, and Harrison made a really nice play because he ended up catching it going away from him -- he didn't even backhand it, he stayed with it -- and it took him right to the bag," Renteria said.

Renteria didn't feel that play turned the momentum in the game.

"I don't allow our guys to put their heads down," Renteria said. "That's just a play that happened. We were still in the lead. That's baseball."

The Pirates would disagree.

"Any time you pull a triple play, I think you're going to feel an instant boost of energy," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You don't see 'em. It's an exciting play, it was crisp, it was fun."

Said Neil Walker: "It was huge."

The Cubs had opened a 2-0 lead in the second when Volquez walked both Luis Valbuena and Olt with one out, and Valbuena scored on a throwing error by the pitcher. John Baker's sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

Javier Baez singled with one out in the third, stole second, advanced on a throwing error by catcher Russell Martin, and then scored on Chris Coghlan's sacrifice fly. But that was it for the Cubs.

Walker's homer came in the fourth. The Pirates were just getting warmed up.

Pittsburgh had two on and one out in the fifth, and both runners scored on Harrison's double down the left-field line to tie the game. Travis Snider followed with an RBI double, and Andrew McCutchen singled and Walker delivered an RBI double. Jacob Turner intentionally walked Martin to load the bases and was pulled.

Pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez greeted Eric Jokisch with an infield hit, driving in another run. One more scored on Gregory Polanco's infield single.

"Things kind of spiraled a little bit," Olt said. "We have to find ways to minimize those innings."

Turner was mad at himself because the first two batters, Jordy Mercer and Polanco, reached on a single and walk, respectively.

"It's easy to look at the hits that scored the runs," Turner said, "but the 1-2 pitch to Mercer wasn't a very good pitch, and the walk to Polanco in a situation where you can't walk him having the lead right there -- those two at-bats, I think, really killed me that inning. It just snowballed."

Jokisch went 2 2/3 innings, and batted for himself in the seventh, which may have seemed puzzling. The Cubs have plenty of arms in the bullpen, but Renteria said it's part of the development mode they're in.

"There are some things that might seem a little odd, but it served us more to get him out there to pitch," Renteria said. "I feel like we were going to give ourselves a chance even after that."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.