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Pirates top Cubs, gain wild-card edge

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- One night after the Pittsburgh Pirates' big party, the team got right back to business as usual.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole allowed two runs in six innings, leading the Pirates to a 8-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

Twenty-four hours early, Pittsburgh celebrated its first postseason berth in more than two decades after a 2-1 victory over the Cubs. With Tuesday's victory, Pittsburgh (91-67) took a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the top National League wild-card spot. The Pirates still trail the St. Louis Cardinals by two games in the NL Central race.

"Last night was fun, it was well-deserved," Cole said. "It think it was the first time this year we've really allowed ourselves to relish what we've done. But at the same time, we've done a good job turning the page."

Cole (10-7) allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one for his fourth consecutive victory.

The win was the second in a row at Wrigley Field for the Pirates. The Cubs dropped their third straight and fourth in five games.

Pedro Alvarez went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, Marlon Byrd was 2-for-4 with two runs, and Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen each went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI.

Ryan Sweeney went 3-for-3 for Chicago, and Starlin Castro added two hits.

"I had every confidence we'd go out and play a good ballgame," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "The men are focused, they're having fun, and the opportunity to gain this kind of experience has added to this."

Cole had a solid outing under way until the sixth, when he loaded the bases with no outs. Sweeney scored on an error to cut the deficit to 6-2, but Cole struck out the next two batters and got Donnie Murphy to fly out to deep right.

Three Pirates relievers pitched one shutout inning apiece to close out the win.

"(Cole) had to do some yard work in the third and sixth, especially in the sixth," Hurdle said. "He was backed into a little bit of a corner ... What he had to do tonight was go to work and pitch. That's a growing experience for him."

The Pirates pushed across three runs in the second inning. Alvarez doubled home Byrd with one out as he lined the ball into the right field ivy. That left runners at second and third for Cole, who singled up the middle to drive in Gaby Sanchez and Alvarez for a 3-0 lead.

Jordy Mercer made it 4-0 in the third with his seventh home run of the season, a leadoff shot to left. Byrd singled, Sanchez moved Byrd to third with a double to left, and that was it for Cubs starter Chris Rusin (2-6). He lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and six hits. Left-hander Brooks Raley came in and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

"My off-speed was up, my fastball was up, and they took those pitches and got hits with them and put one over the fence," Rusin said. "Today I didn't do the job."

Chicago got one run back in the third. Logan Watkins led off with a single, advanced to second on Raley's sacrifice bunt and scored on a Castro base hit.

In the fifth, the Pirates loaded the bases against Cubs reliever Chang-Yong Lim with no outs, and Alvarez lined a one-out double down the third base line to score Byrd and McCutchen for a 6-1 lead.

The loss was the Cubs' single-season record 50th at home with one yet to play.

"To lose that many game at home is something you've got to stay away from," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We've got to score more runs at home. This year has been tough, it just seem we do more things on the road than we have at home."

NOTES: RHP Jason Grilli's save Monday was his 32nd of the season and gave the Pirates 53 for the year, a club record since saves became an official statistic in 1969. The previous record was 52, set by the 1979 World Series champion squad. ... In 73 career games against Chicago, McCutchen is hitting .336 with 17 doubles, three triples and nine homers, reaching base safely in 66 of those games. ... After Wednesday's series finale in Chicago, Pittsburgh closes the regular season with three games in Cincinnati. ... Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.88 ERA) goes against Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (3-2, 3.94 ERA) on Wednesday. ... Tuesday's game was the Cubs' 30th and final night start of 2013. They finished 12-18 under the lights. ... The Cubs will have more wins on the road than home for just the third time in the past 18 season.
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