Bryant homers, Cubs win 2-0 as Pirates strand 11
After committing an error at third base each of the previous two innings, Bryant watched Steven Brault lift his leg. That’s when he could just make out what a fan had shouted.
“He was making fun of me because I made two errors,” Bryant said. “I hit a home run.”
The Cubs certainly appreciated Bryant’s contribution. After getting out of three bases-loaded jams, Chicago snapped a four-game skid with a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs moved back into a first-place tie in the NL Central when St. Louis lost to Cincinnati later Saturday.
Bryant, who also walked in the ninth, drove the first pitch of the seventh from Brault (3-2) into the left-field bleachers to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. It was Bryant’s 25th homer this season and third in five games.
“(Bryant) deserves a lot of credit for coming back the way he did,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Even his last at-bat, we didn’t score, but to draw that walk on (Francisco) Liriano was a nice at-bat.”
Jon Lester (10-8) gave up four hits and five walks in six innings after allowing Pittsburgh to load the bases with one out in the first and nobody out in the fifth. He got Kevin Newman to fly out to right in the fifth before striking out Bryan Reynolds and getting out of it when Starling Marte flied to center.
“I think, finally, I got out of my hard-headedness as far as challenging guys, falling behind in counts and kind of giving in,” Lester said. “I feel like that’s really bitten me in the rear end this year as far as still thinking I can throw my heater by guys. … Regardless of the baserunners, I knew I just couldn’t give in and throw a heater.”
Pittsburgh stranded 11 runners and fell to 7-26 since the All-Star break. It loaded the bases a third time with two outs in the seventh.
After Ian Happ fully extended in left field to catch a sharp line drive from Reynolds for the second out with runners on first and second, Cubs reliever Tyler Chatwood hit Marte with a pitch. Josh Bell bounced to second to end the inning.
“At the end of the day, I think we were 0 for 12 with men in scoring position,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We left 11 men on base and 0 for 6 with the bases loaded. Pretty much wraps up the story for today.”
Happ scored from third on a throwing error by catcher Elias Díaz in the eighth.
Brault didn’t allow a hit until Addison Russell singled to third with one out in the fifth. He reached career highs in innings pitched with seven and strikeouts with eight, and allowed one run on two hits with one walk.
“You’ve got two major league pitchers going against each other,” Brault said. “Jon Lester has been around for a while. He pitched himself out of some jams. It happens. It would have been nice to win, obviously, but I did what I could. So I feel good about what happened. Sometimes it goes that way.”
Cubs: RHP Steve Cishek said he was pain-free following a bullpen session Saturday. He could be activated for Chicago’s game against San Francisco on Tuesday. Cishek was placed on the 10-day injured list with left hip inflammation on Aug. 10.
Cubs: LHP José Quintana (10-7, 4.11 ERA) will try to avoid taking a loss for the first time in nearly two months when he takes the mound at the MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, against Pittsburgh on Sunday. He is 6-0 in eight starts since last losing June 22.
Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller (1-1, 7.94) will make his second start on Sunday since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Aug. 12. The 23-year-old rookie picked up his first major league win in four starts by allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits against the Angels on Monday.