Pirates overcome base-running gaffes to rally past Cubs
Three Pirates tried to go from first base to third in the eighth inning Tuesday. Only one of them made it.
That was enough, though, to spark a winning rally. Despite some iffy baserunning, the Pirates came up with a pair of runs and upended the Chicago Cubs, 4-3.
"It happened quick," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We pitched well enough to stay in the game, then found a way late."
With the Pirates trailing 3-2, leadoff batter John Jaso drew a four-pitch walk from Carl Edwards. When Starling Marte lined a single to right field, Jaso zipped to third.
"He's got baseball awareness," Hurdle said.
Jaso decided quickly to try for third.
"It was softly hit, and I knew the right fielder (Jason Heyward) would be coming in at an angle to the foul line," Jaso said. "He'd have to set his feet and throw across (his body). Plus, ball off the bat, I got a good jump. I calculated all that in my head and took the gamble."
Jaso cut the turn perfectly at second base and made it easily to third.
"Making that decision (to go) early on helps you make that cut," Jaso said. "That way, you're not going straight into the bag, then deciding to go to third and losing your balance."
Max Moroff dropped a single into left field. Jaso scored, but Marte was thrown out at third base.
"I know if Starling had it to do over again …" Hurdle said. "It probably felt like a good push immediately, but the play is in front. You don't want to run into that out at that particular time of the game."
Moroff went to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Josh Bell was intentionally walked.
David Freese bounced a single up the middle. Moroff scored moments before Bell was tagged out trying to go from first to third.
"J.B. was hungry, so I guess it was end the inning right about there," Freese joked.
Hurdle was more forgiving about Bell's gaffe than Marte's.
"You trade a run for an out," Hurdle said. "That's a decision that Bell made. That one, I can live a little bit. But it was tough making two outs in that inning on the bases."
Wade LeBlanc (5-2) tossed three scoreless innings of relief to get the win. Felipe Rivero collected his 18th save.
Left-hander Steven Brault turned in a decent start in place of Ivan Nova, who's taking extra down time as he tries to work out of a second-half slump. Brault's first six outings this year came out of the bullpen.
It was the third consecutive outing in which Brault faced the Cubs. The first two were relief appearances, and neither went well.
On Aug. 28, Brault yielded three runs over two innings. Two days later, he was tagged for four runs in one inning. Is he sick of seeing the Cubs?
"You know what? I hope I get to see them for a really long time," Brault said with a smile. "I'd like to beat them."
This time, Brault (0-1) settled in after a bumpy start. He worked five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks.
"He pitched to contact," Hurdle said. "A good confidence-builder moving forward for him."
Brault had not started a game since Aug. 12, when he tossed seven shutout innings for Triple-A Indianapolis.
"I felt really good, but things didn't go quite as I'd like (them) to," Brault said. "I gave up some soft hits. It happens. But overall I felt pretty good. It's a good place to start."
After three innings, Brault had thrown 62 pitches and had given up three runs. He put the first two runners on base in the first and third, and the Cubs scored each time.
Brault blanked the Cubs in the fourth and tossed a tidy fifth. He threw a total of 91 pitches, his highest tally in a big league game since Aug. 29, 2016, against — who else? — the Cubs.
In the second inning, Jordan Luplow hit a two-run homer off Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.
The Pirates got just two hits from the third through the sixth innings against Hendricks, who allowed just three balls out of the infield in that span.
Notes: As he signed off after Tuesday's game, longtime Pirates TV broadcaster Kent Tekulve announced his retirement. Tekulve, the closer who recorded the final out of the 1979 World Series, had a heart transplant in September 2014. ... Josh Harrison is the Pirates' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. Willie Stargell (1974) and Andrew McCutchen (2015) are the only Pirates to have won the award. … Reliever George Kontos (strained right groin) threw a simulated game and might come off the disabled list on either Thursday or Friday. … A quartet of opera singers, organized by Marianne Cornetti, sung the national anthem. Cornetti, a mezzo-soprano from Rossyln Farms who has performed with the Pittsburgh Opera, flew in from Spain for the game.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.