Happ right at home in Cubs’ victory over Pirates
PITTSBURGH — It was Ian Happ’s second trip home as a major-leaguer, and the Chicago Cubs’ rookie made sure what surely was his final game at PNC Park this season was a good one.
“It’s always great for me to come home and play at PNC. I had a lot of family and friends out there,” Happ, from suburban Mt. Lebanon, said after he had three hits, scored twice as the Cubs’ leadoff batter and threw a runner out at home from center field in Chicago’s 8-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs (77-63) salvaged a split in the four-game series after dropping the first two by a combined 16-3.
Albert Almora Jr. hit a two-run homer, and Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-2 with two runs, two RBIs and two walks as Chicago pounded out 13 hits to back starter Jon Lester, who got stronger over the course of his six innings.
“Yeah, it was a good day all around for the whole team,” Happ said. “Jonny fought hard and pitched a heck of a game, and everybody did their part on offense.”
Chicago scored a run in each of the first four innings, then scored two in the fifth for a 6-1 lead. Almora’s homer made it 8-1 in the seventh.
“We put up that picket fence early,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We could have scored a lot more runs. We left a lot of chicken on the bone.”
Chicago left seven on and was 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Pittsburgh (67-74) added a run in the eighth on Jordan Luplow’s RBI double.
Lester (10-7), in his second start after coming off the disabled list, gave up one run and five hits in his six innings. He set the Pirates down in order in the fifth and sixth. He walked four and struck out five.
“The first couple innings, (I was) able to get ahead of guys, just wasn’t really able to get them out as quickly as we would have liked to,” Lester said. “Whether that’s a little bit of rust or being too fine, I don’t know, but we got through it and a couple good defensive plays helped.”
Lester kept the Pirates off-balance.
“Veteran guy making pitches,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We had some punch-outs looking. You normally want to get guys on and run them into the barrel. You have to put some balls in play.”
Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon (7-6) gave up six runs and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts. Taillon hasn’t won since Aug. 11 but was coming off a no-decision against Cincinnati in which he pitched six scoreless innings.
“Frustrating, I guess, is probably the best word,” Taillon said. “I felt strong. I felt great. But no one cares how you feel. You’ve got to go out, get results and get guys out. I feel great, but they were just hitting every single mistake I made.”
Hurdle said earlier that Taillon, 25, might be asked to skip his next start or perhaps even get shut down for the rest of the season.
Maddon can see why.
“That kid’s so good,” Maddon said. “He might be losing a little steam right now. He wasn’t as sharp as I’ve seen him in the past.”
Chicago got the leadoff batter on base in four of the five innings Taillon started.
In the first, Happ singled to right, went to third on Kris Bryant’s double off the wall in right and scored on Rizzo’s sacrifice fly.
The Cubs made it 2-0 when Javier Baez led off the second with a double to the corner in left, went to third on a grounder and scored on Rene Rivera’s sacrifice bunt. Taillon fielded the bunt but twisted his body awkwardly and stumbled a bit as he turned to make the throw to first. He was briefly seen by a trainer.
Taillon might have had an RBI in the second, but Happ scooped up his single to shallow center and gunned down Jordy Mercer trying to score from second.
“How about the throw to the plate?” Maddon said. “I didn’t really pick up on how tight he was until once he made the throw.”
Happ led off the third with a double high off the wall in right and, an out later, scored on Rizzo’s single up the middle for a 3-0 lead.
Pittsburgh scored in the third to make it 3-1. Starling Marte and Max Moroff walked and moved up on Andrew McCutchen’s groundout. Marte scored on Josh Bell’s groundout.
Chicago increased its lead to 4-1 in the fourth on Lester’s RBI double after back-to-back, one-out singles by Jason Heyward and Rivera.
In the fifth, Baez drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt and Heyward rapped an RBI double for a 6-1 lead as Chicago chased Taillon.
NOTES: The start was delayed 53 minutes by rain. ... Pittsburgh RHP George Kontos (groin) was reinstated from the disabled list. ... Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco (hamstring) and INF/OF Adam Frazier (hamstring) could come off the DL on Friday for the series opener at St. Louis, manager Clint Hurdle said. ... Chicago begins an important NL Central series Friday against Milwaukee. RHP John Lackey (11-10, 4.74 ERA) faces the Brewers RHP Jimmy Nelson (11-6, 3.59) in the opener.