EditorsNote: fixes slug
Cubs beat Pirates 1-0 on Avila’s triple in ninth
PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t a trick question. Just an inquiry about an unusual situation.
So, Alex Avila, how many broken-bat triples have you had in your career?
“Not many,” Avila said, shaking his head. “I haven’t broken many bats (at all), either.”
Avila hit just such a liner down the right-field line in the ninth inning Wednesday night. It drove in the only run to break up a pitchers’ duel as well as Chicago’s three-game losing streak, lifting the Cubs to a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Anthony Rizzo drew a one-out walk against Pittsburgh reliever Daniel Hudson (2-6) in the ninth. Pinch-runner Leonys Martin stole second, and after Ian Happ struck out, Avila drove in the winner.
Chicago (76-63) has a chance to split the four-game series Thursday. The Pirates (67-73) saw their four-game win streak end.
Pedro Strop (4-4) pitched the eighth inning for the win. Wade Davis tossed the ninth for his 29th save.
Pitching was the story for most of the game as starters Gerrit Cole and Jose Quintana matched shutout innings.
Cole, the Pittsburgh starter, in particular, was stellar. He pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up two hits — an infield single by Javier Baez in the second and a broken-bat single to left by Jon Jay in the eighth. He struck out eight and walked four, throwing 108 pitches.
“Cole pretty much had no-hit stuff,” said Avila, who struck out two of the three times he face Cole. “The way he was locating with 97 (mph on his fastball), slider, curveball, he was excellent. You just had a feeling that we weren’t going to have many opportunities against him. If he made a mistake, we weren’t able to capitalize on it.
“He had unbelievable stuff. Just try to outlast him and keep the game where it was until we got into their bullpen and see if we got an opportunity there.”
It was a strong bounce-back effort from Cole’s previous start, when he gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Cincinnati Reds, but he still hasn’t won at PNC Park since June 13.
“I was able to get the pitch count back down in the middle innings,” Cole said. “They needed to try to put something together and we just kept making good pitches early in the count and got rewarded for it.”
Quintana, who won three of his previous four starts, threw six scoreless innings. He allowed six hits and one walk with six strikeouts. He threw 105 pitches.
“I felt pretty good,” Quintana said. “It was a battle, a really good game, both starters. My mind was, ‘Keep the game close.’”
The Cubs had runners on first and second in each of the first two innings. After back-to-back one-out walks in the first, Cole got Rizzo to ground into a double play.
The Cubs got a two-out walk and Baez’s infield single in the second before Cole struck out Quintana.
Cole, particularly in the first, showed some frustration with the calls from plate umpire Paul Nauert.
“It wasn’t like he wasn’t efficient in the first,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “There was some calls that could have gone our way and could have shortened that inning up. To make the pitch to get out of that inning was pretty impressive, as well, and then he just stayed on a roll.”
Quintana’s strikeout was the start of Cole’s string of setting down 14 Cubs in a row, until Happ drew a one-out walk in the seventh. Happ advanced to second on a grounder but was stranded.
Pittsburgh got runners to first and second with two outs in the fourth, but Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant made a leaping snag of a liner by Jordy Mercer to end the inning.
“You have to pitch better than good pitching to win. We did,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s exactly what happened.
“We had a real (good) level of mental energy; it’s just that their pitcher was that good.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco and INF/OF Adam Frazier, both on the disabled list with hamstring injuries, ran the bases. ... Pittsburgh C Francisco Cervelli (left quadriceps) has hit a plateau in his rehab. ... Pittsburgh RHP George Kontos (groin) threw a simulated game Tuesday with no problems afterward or Wednesday. ... Pittsburgh RHP Ivan Nova is expected to start Sunday at St. Louis after his spot was skipped Tuesday so he could regroup. ... Chicago C Willson Contreras (hamstring) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday with high Class-A Myrtle Beach. ... Cubs 2B Ben Zobrist was given the night off from the starting lineup in favor of Tommy La Stella, who went 0-for-3. ... Chicago hired former major leaguer Will Venable as a special assistant to the president and general manager.