Kang, Cole lead Pirates to win
aCHICAGO (AP) – Starling Marte singled with one out in the seventh inning to end Jon Lester’s no-hit bid, then scored on Jung Ho Kang’s double to put Gerrit Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates ahead to stay in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
Kang added an eighth-inning home run to help the Pirates beat the major league-leading Cubs for the first time in six tries this season.
Cole (4-3) allowed three hits in eight shutout innings. Mark Melancon gave up a run in a shaky ninth but held on for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Lester (4-2), who threw a no-hitter with Boston in 2008, had permitted only two walks and retired 16 straight batters before Marte’s opposite-field liner to right on a changeup.
Marte stole second and scored on Kang’s drive to the gap in right-center, chasing Lester after 109 pitches. He struck out nine.
Melancon walked Dexter Fowler and allowed Jason Hayward’s broken-bat single to put runners at the corners with nobody out in the ninth. But the closer retired three of the next four hitters, including Anthony Rizzo’s sacrifice fly.
Cole struck out seven in a 95-pitch performance that gave the Pirates a much-needed lift after a frustrating two weeks against their NL Central rivals.
The Cubs took all three games in Pittsburgh early this month, then the first two in this series. Pittsburgh had been outscored 37-11 by Chicago while falling nine backs back in the division.
But the 25-year-old Cole, who lost to Chicago in last year’s NL wild-card game and again to the Cubs on May 2, continued his dominance at Wrigley Field.
The right-hander’s six wins against the Cubs since the start of 2014 are the most of any pitcher, and he hasn’t allowed a homer at Wrigley Field in 45 innings.
The Cubs’ third loss in 13 games denied them their sixth series sweep of the year and dropped them to 27-9 after Lester came close to producing the club’s second no-hitter of the season.
Jake Arrieta shut down Cincinnati in a 16-0 win on April 21, part of the Cubs’ best start since the 1907 season.
The Cubs got little going against Cole. One of their three hits came when Fowler was credited with a double after shortstop Jordy Mercer lost a popup in the sun.
Rizzo went 0 for 3, ending the majors’ longest active streak of reaching base at 26 games.
Kang sent Hector Rondon’s 96 mph fastball into the left-field bleachers for his fourth homer.
Pirates: LHP Cory Luebke (hamstring) came off the disabled list and RHP A.J. Schugel was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Luebke left Scranton, Pennsylvania, at 3 a.m. via a car service to make it in time after seven minor league rehab appearances. “Just started getting ahead of guys again,” he said.
Cubs: OF Matt Szczur (hamstring) is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday.
Pirates: LHP Jonathon Niese (3-2, 5.63 ERA) faces Atlanta RHP Williams Perez (1-0, 3.54) on Monday night in Pittsburgh to begin a stretch of 24 straight games outside the NL Central.
Cubs: Monday marks the team’s second day off in five days. RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.03) starts Tuesday against RHP Chase Anderson (1-5, 6.11) and Milwaukee to begin a nine-game trip.