Anthony Rizzo hit his 30th home run of the season, and the Chicago Cubs (85-61) scored six times in the top of the fifth to help themselves to a 9-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates (87-59) Thursday afternoon at PNC Park. With the win, the Cubs took 3 of 4 in the series and moved two games closer to the Pirates in the National League Wild Card race.
Rizzo started the big rally when he lined a 1-0 splitter off Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton into the right-field stands to put the Cubs ahead 5-4. Chris Coghlan led off the inning with a double and scored on Rizzo's blast (30).
For Rizzo, this is the second straight season in which he has hit 30+ home runs (32 in 2014). He hit career home run #100 on September 8.
Before the inning ended, the Cubs scored four more times thanks to Addison Russell's RBI single, Clayton Richard's two-run double, and Tommy La Stella's run-scoring single. What began as a 4-3 deficit turned into a 9-4 lead. All six runs scored with nobody out.
Richard, a relief pitcher, was 1 for 2 with 2 RBI and 1 R at the plate on the day.
Pittsburgh pulled to within 9-6 with two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Gregory Polanco singled home Josh Harrison, and Neil Walker bounced one over the left-field wall for an RBI ground-rule double (video) that plated Polanco.
The Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead with one in the first (Rizzo double play with Dexter Fowler scoring) and two in the second (Russell, La Stella RBI doubles).
On that double play in the first, Pirates rookie sensation Jung Ho Kang injured his knee as Coghlan slid into him in attempt to break up the play. Kang needed help leaving the field, and the Pirates are awaiting results of further examination.
UPDATE: MLB.com's Adam Berry reports that Kong has "a fractured tibia and a torn MCL" in his left leg.
Down 3-0 early, the Pirates took a 4-3 lead on three home runs: a solo shot from Travis Snider (4) in the second and a solo shot from Polanco (9) and a two-run blast from Pedro Alvarez (24) in the third (video).
Richard (W: 4-2, 4.15 ERA) pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief to earn the victory. He allowed two runs on four hits without a walk or a strikeout. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks gave up four runs in six hits (three home runs) in three innings while walking none and fanning five. Travis Wood (S: 2) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the save while striking out five of the six Pirates he faced, including all three in the ninth.
Morton (9-8, 4.26) allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits in four innings of work. He walked two, struck out five, and served up Rizzo's home run. Joe Blanton had three of those six fifth-inning runs charged to him without retiring a batter.
The Cubs are now two games behind Pittsburgh for the top wild card spot in the National League. They also lead the San Francisco Giants by eight games for spot #2 pending the Giants' outcome Thursday night. The Cubs and Pirates face off three more times in Wrigley Field from September 25-27.
The Cubs now return home to take on the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game weekend series. The Cardinals lead the division by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh and 6.5 over the Cubs. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, heads west to visit the Los Angeles Dodgers in Southern California.