The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates opened up a big three game series at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon with the Cubs' magic number at one. With the wind blowing in at Wrigley, runs would be at a premium in this one and that held true throughout.
It was a great pitching matchup in this one as Jon Lester for the Cubs and Gerrit Cole for the Pirates took the hill and they were both on top of their games.
The Pirates were able to crack the scoreboard first in this one as starter Gerrit Cole helped his own cause with an RBI single in the third inning to score Jordy Mercer to make it 1-0.
The Cubs weren't going away and answered back in the fourth with an RBI groundout by Addison Russell, scoring Kris Bryant to tie it up at one.
It stayed that way until the seventh when Lester couldn't hold off Pittsburgh in his last inning of work. Michael Morse came up with a clutch RBI single to score Keon Buxton, who pinch ran for Aramis Ramirez. That made the score 2-1 and the Pirates didn't look back after that.
Lester had a solid day, however, for the Cubs. He went seven innings giving up two runs on five hits, while striking out six and walking none. It was good to see Lester turn in a good outing in a big game like this.
The Pirates were able to tack on an insurance run in the eighth when Starling Marte grounded out to short to force in Jordy Mercer from third base. The Cubs had their infield in, but were unable to make a play at home when Marte hit a high chopper.
Mark Melancon then came in to shut the door in the ninth, but it wasn't an easy inning.
Pinch hitter Chris Denorfia hit a leadoff double that had the Cubs off and running. Two batters later, Starlin Castro hit an RBI triple down the right field line that was fair by about six inches, but nonetheless, it was a one run game with a runner on third with just one out.
Melancon really hunkered down after that to strand Castro at third base when he came back to strike out Jorge Soler and Javier Baez to end the game and earn his 51st save of the season. He was really fired up after this emotional win for the Pirates, who clinched their spot in the playoffs earlier this week.
The Pirates were led in this one by Michael Morse who was 2-for-3 at the plate, while the Cubs were led by Kris Bryant who finished 2-for-4.
With the loss, the Cubs can still make the playoffs on Friday if the San Francisco Giants lose to the San Diego Padres. Otherwise, they can still clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win on Saturday.
The series continues Saturday at Wrigley when Francisco Liriano of the Pirates faces off against Jason Hammel of the Cubs.
WP: Gerrit Cole (18-8, 2.60 ERA)
LP: Jon Lester (10-12, 3.43 ERA)
SV: Mark Melancon (51 saves, 1.95 ERA)