Mitch Keller hit hard as Pirates lose Little League Classic to Cubs
WILLIAMSPORT — Jose Quintana pitched seven crisp innings, Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-1, on Sunday night in the MLB Little League Classic.
Nicholas Castellanos and Jason Heyward also connected as Chicago earned its second straight win since consecutive heartbreaking losses to the Phillies and Pirates.
Rookie Mitch Keller (1-2) gave up six runs and seven hits in 41⁄3 innings. He struck out five and threw 93 pitches.
The Cubs took two of three in the weekend set and remain in a virtual tie with St. Louis for the top spot in the NL Central. It was the first road series win for Chicago since May 17-19 against Washington.
Starling Marte had three hits for the Pirates, including his 21st homer in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel. Kevin Newman and Colin Moran had two hits apiece.
With grinning Little Leaguers dressed in their uniforms filling the stands, Quintana (11-7) allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked none. The left-hander improved to 7-0 in nine starts since his last loss June 22.
“His stuff’s the same, but it’s being utilized more regular, one curveball, one changeup. His command was spectacular,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “(His) confidence could not be higher. He’s been magnificent.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said it was the best he had ever seen from Quintana.
“Some really good stuff from him tonight,” he said. “Unfortunate for us.”
Castellanos went deep in the first inning against Keller, and Heyward added another solo shot in the third. It was Castellanos’ sixth homer since coming over in a July 31 trade with Detroit.
The Cubs added two more in the fourth on Kyle Schwarber’s two-run single, then put it away with three in the fifth.
Kris Bryant chased Keller with a run-scoring double, and Rizzo made it 7-0 when he greeted Chris Stratton with a drive off the scoreboard in left-center for his 23rd homer.
The last-place Pirates dropped to 7-27 since the All-Star break.
Kimbrel, who was activated from the 10-injured list before the game, got the first two outs in the ninth in his first game since Aug. 3. He gave up Marte’s homer and hit Cole Tucker before striking out two.
Rizzo said the whole day, including interactions with Little Leaguers before the game at the airport and at the Little League complex, was special.
“It was fun,” he said. “The smiles on their faces. For me, I always wanted to come here but never got to come here. To be able to come and experience that … it was a really cool experience.”