Pirates 3, Cubs 1

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke finally regained his All-Star form Thursday night.
The left-handed Locke allowed only one run and three hits in seven innings to pitch the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park in the opener of a three-game series.
Locke (10-5) won for the first time July 21 in helping the Pirates keep pace in a tight National League Central race. The Pirates entered the day one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals, who hosted the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
Locke went 8-2 in the first half of the season and was selected to the All-Star Game. However, he had gone 0-3 with a 6.57 ERA in his last eight starts prior to Thursday.
Locke had five strikeouts and issued only one walk -- he leads the NL with 79 bases on balls and had walked 27 in 38 1/3 innings during his winless streak.
Opponents were hitting .324 off Locke since the All-Star break before Thursday's game. He allowed just a .202 average in the first half.
The Pirates ran their winning streak to four games as they opened their final homestand, an 11-gamer against the Cubs, San Diego and Cincinnati that is their longest of the season. Pittsburgh is 46-25 at home.
Jordy Mercer had two of the Pirates' six hits, including an RBI double in the eighth inning that pushed their lead to 3-1. Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 10 games when he doubled and scored during a two-run fourth.
Mark Melancon survived a ninth-inning threat for his 13th save in 16 opportunities. The Cubs put the first two men on as Darwin Barney reached on a strikeout/wild pitch and Anthony Rizzo singled to snap an 0-for-17 skid. But Melancon bounced back to retire the next three batters.
Chris Rusin (2-4) again had nothing to show for a fine outing as he took the loss despite giving up just two runs and four hits in seven innings with no walks and two strikeouts.
The lefty is winless in six starts since Aug. 9, going 0-3 with a fine 2.67 ERA. He has allowed two earned runs or less in seven consecutive starts and nine of 11 since being called up from Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs are hitting just .173 in 13 games against Pittsburgh this season while going 5-8.
Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead on back-to-back RBI singles by Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez with two outs in the fourth. McCutchen keyed the inning with a one-out double.
Chicago broke on top with a run in the third inning. Darnell McDonald led off with a ground-rule double that bounced over the 410-foot sign in left-center field, and he scored on Starlin Castro's two-out single.
NOTES: Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.44 ERA) will start Friday night against Chicago RHP Jake Arrieta (2-2, 4.28) in the second game of the four-game series. There was some question about Morton's availability after he left his start last Sunday in the second inning at St. Louis because of a flare up of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with tightness in his left forearm, threw 67 pitches Thursday in a five-inning simulated game. ... Pittsburgh OF Starling Marte was one of the hitters who batted against Rodriguez, the first time he has faced live pitching since being placed on the disabled list Aug. 19 with a bruised right hand. Marte was activated Sept. 7 but has been limited to pinch-running and late-inning defensive replacement duty. ... Cubs rookie LF Junior Lake extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the fourth inning.

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