Resilient Cubs battle back to top Pirates

Resilient Cubs battle back to top Pirates
September 13, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Nates Barnes contributor 

PITTSBURGH -- Chicago built a three-run lead at PNC Park only to lose it in the fourth inning when the Pirates hit back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in 58 years.

But a two-run homer in the seventh off the bat of Anthony Rizzo put the Cubs up 5-4, which would stand as the runs necessary for a victory.

Like Thursday, the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the second when Nate Schierholtz worked a leadoff walk from Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton. Darwin Barney hit into a fielder’s choice with Schierholtz on third and Brian Bogusevic on first to score Schierholtz.

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Bogusevic found his way into the action again when he hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, a shot to center field that put Chicago up 3-0.

Through the first three innings, Chicago starter Jake Arrieta was rolling. After he issued a leadoff walk to Jose Tabata and a single by Andrew McCutchen in the first, Arrieta retired the next 10 batters he faced.

“Command was pretty good for me,” Arrieta said. “The one walk was to the first guy, I think overall I threw the ball pretty well.”

But the Pirates stormed back in the fourth, starting with an inside-the-park home run from Pedro Alvarez with two outs. Russell Martin followed with a solo shot to left, and Garrett Jones homered to center to tie the game at 3.

“I’ve been in some tough situations before, so I’m used to it. You just have to put it behind you,” Arrieta said. “On the road it might be a little tougher than in your home ballpark, but things like that are going to happen in this game.”

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Arrieta bounced back with a minimal-effort fifth inning, but was pulled from the game when McCutchen doubled to lead off the sixth. Arrieta threw five-plus, and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out six Pirates.

“He had a little bit of everything working. His cutter was working really good tonight, his curveball to get ahead,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Obviously he gave up back-to-back-to-back homers, but other than that he pitched pretty good today.”

Arrieta left as the losing pitcher of record, but that shifted to Pirates reliever Jason Grilli when he allowed Rizzo to launch home run No. 22 over the right field fence. Rizzo’s two-run shot was the highlight of his 2-for-5 day, which included two balls hit to the outfield as well.

“It feels good,” Rizzo said. “Valbuena worked the walk there, and I had the opportunity to get up there in the seventh.”

After Sveum pulled Arrieta, the Cubs’ bullpen proceeded to out-pitch one of the league’s best relief contingents. Relievers Brooks Raley, Carlos Villanueva, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, and Kevin Gregg worked four shutout innings and allowed only three hits and a walk.

The relief efforts culminated in Villanueva’s sixth victory of 2013 and save No. 32 for Gregg.