Pirates rally late but lose to Cubs 3-2 in 12 innings
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates got a long look at Jake Arrieta on Wednesday night.
They might as well get used to it. The Chicago Cubs and their burgeoning ace aren’t going anywhere.
A late rally spoiled Arrieta’s bid for his 20th win of the season, but the Pirates lost to Chicago 3-2 in 12 innings — narrowing their lead over the Cubs for the top spot in the NL wild-card chase to three games with 2 1/2 weeks to go.
″(Arrieta) had his way early with us, but that’s the makeup of this team,” Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “We keep grinding. We keep grinding at-bats and we put ourselves in a good situation there at the end.”
Just not good enough to keep pace with front-running St. Louis, which extended its advantage in the NL Central to four games over Pittsburgh. Barring a hot streak or a collapse by the Cardinals, the Pirates and the Cubs appear destined to play each other in the wild-card game.
Pittsburgh scratched for runs in the sixth and eighth to pull out of a 2-0 deficit but couldn’t ride the momentum to victory on a night when the team went 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and failed to produce an extra-base hit.
“A hit sandwiched in there would have been nice,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We faced one of the best pitchers in the game and I think we’re down 2-0 late and we scratch and tie the game up. We trust our players.”
The Cubs took control for good in the 12th against Vance Worley (4-6).
Chris Denorfia singled off Worley to start the inning and was replaced by pinch-runner Quintin Berry, who advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on Austin Jackson’s single. Starling Marte tracked down Anthony Rizzo’s sacrifice fly to left field but had no shot at Berry.
Hector Rondon (6-4) worked two innings for the win.
Neil Walker and Marte had two hits apiece for Pittsburgh. A.J. Burnett weaved in and out of trouble, giving up two runs in 5 1-3 innings in his second start following a six-week stay on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. He walked one and struck out seven to give him 2,495 strikeouts in his 17-year career.
“Any time you face a stud like (Arrieta), you want to go out and match him pitch for pitch,” Burnett said. “You expect a good game out of him.”
Pittsburgh is hoping to avoid the high-wire act a one-game elimination provides. It seems unlikely now, which means there’s a good chance the Pirates will see Arrieta again on Oct. 7.
Arrieta’s bid to become the first 20-game winner in the majors went along smoothly before he wavered in the eighth as Pittsburgh rallied to tie it. Arrieta allowed two runs, one earned, and six hits but failed to pick up a victory for the first time since Aug. 4.
“We did a lot of different things to mess up his rhythm and put some pressure on him,” Mercer said.
Chicago appeared to give Arrieta all the offense he would need in the sixth when the Cubs finally got to Burnett.
Rizzo singled and scored on a double by Kris Bryant. The rookie slugger made it 2-0 when he raced home from third on a sacrifice bunt back to the mound by Starlin Castro, who reached safely when reliever Jared Hughes threw wide of first for an error.
A rare mistake by Arrieta let Pittsburgh draw closer. Gregory Polanco singled in the sixth with two outs, stole second and scored when Arrieta flipped high to first for an error on a routine chopper by Marte.
Then things got weird. Neil Walker led off the Pittsburgh eighth with a single and pinch-runner Pedro Florimon raced to third when Francisco Cervelli’s sharp liner glanced off shortstop Javier Baez’s glove and into shallow right. Florimon was out at home on a grounder to Baez, with replay officials ruling catcher Miguel Montero did not block the plate.
Pittsburgh managed to tie it anyway. Arrieta walked pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez to load the bases, and Chicago manager Joe Maddon decided to keep his ace in even with his pitch count at 116. Polanco grounded to second, but rather than go to second for the forceout, Castro hesitated and went to first instead, giving pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez time to cross the plate safely before a double play was completed with several throws.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-6, 4.08 ERA) starts the series finale. He is 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates.
Pirates: Charlie Morton will try to win 10 games for the second time in his career when he makes his 21st start of the season Thursday. Morton (9-7, 4.02) is 6-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 10 games at PNC Park this year.