Pirates hold off Cubs, snap 4-game skid
CHICAGO — Less than 24 hours after absorbing a tough loss against the Boston Red Sox, the Pirates on Friday found themselves halfway across the country, staring down the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
Everything about this one was a grind.
"You can (complain) about it or you can turn the page and get to work," David Freese said.
The Pirates went to work.
Freese banged out three hits and drove in two runs. Francisco Cervelli, who might be battling the flu bug that's ravaged the Red Sox clubhouse, delivered a key two-run double.
Gerrit Cole piled up 114 pitches over six solid innings. Relievers Felipe Rivero and Tony Watson survived bases-loaded jams.
The Pirates upended the Cubs, 4-2, and snapped a four-game losing streak. It was the Pirates' first victory in their past seven games at Wrigley Field, where they went 1-8 last season — and where there's now a World Series banner flying.
"That was last year," Rivero said. "You can't think about that. This year, (the Cubs) are just a regular team."
Freese got on base four times (two doubles, one single and an error) and drove in the game's first two runs.
"I'm trying to keep it as simple as I can," Freese said. "Simple mind, simple plan. Clear the head and worry about what's going on at the moment."
Freese has gotten on in his past nine plate appearances and is batting .440 overall.
"It's fun to watch," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Good takes, not firing early, seeing pitches, staying in the fight and fouling off good pitcher's pitches. Then, when balls are hit, they're hit all over the park."
In the second inning, with Gregory Polanco on second base, Freese engaged in a 12-pitch battle against Kyle Hendricks (1-1)
"David pretty much just hit pause and said, 'Guys, I'm going to figure this one out, however many it's going to take,' " Hurdle said. "Hendricks threw the kitchen sink at him and he kept fouling balls off. A very, very professional at-bat."
Hendricks fired four straight sinkers, two changeups, three more sinkers, then another change. The 11th pitch was a sinker that missed the zone to run the count full. Hendricks offered another sinker and Freese lashed it into right field.
"I just kept fighting," Freese said. "Hendricks is tough. He doesn't throw hard, but he knows what he's doing. After every pitch, you have to refocus."
It was the Pirates' first RBI hit in 32 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They went hitless in their next five at-bats with RISP until Freese and Cervelli came through in the sixth inning.
Freese poked an RBI single through the hole into right field to tie the game at 2-2. Cervelli doubled to right center, which scored Polanco and Freese, but stumbled while rounding second and was tagged out.
"Cervelli was sick as a dog," Cole said. "But he was back behind the dish all day, blocking balls, and hit a big two-run double. Can't ask for much more than that."
Cole (1-1) got his first win in three starts this season. He gave up two runs on six hits, walked one and struck out five.
Although he was at 94 pitches through five innings, Cole still looked strong. That, combined with the bullpen's recent struggles, made it an easy call for Hurdle to send the right-hander out for the sixth.
"There are times you've got to keep pushing it, moving the chains forward a little bit," Hurdle said.
Cole finished two shy of his career high for pitches. It was his highest count since he tossed 114 pitches on July 10, 2015.
Wade LeBlanc, Rivero and Watson each tossed a scoreless inning. Rivero and Watson created some drama, but pitched out trouble.
"It was a good for us to put our foot down," Cole said. "We certainly, uh, kept it interesting for the Wrigley faithful, but a win's a win. Guys competed hard."