Wednesday's game versus the Pirates was a bit more emotionally taxing than it probably needed to be. The Cubs were able to walk off with a win, but not without a lot of unnecessary drama.
Cubs starter José Quintana got the first two outs quickly on strikeouts from Adam Frazier and Starling Marte, but José Osuna would not go down quietly for the third out. He launched a solo shot to left field and put the Pirates ahead early. Elías Díaz followed with a groundout and the first half of the inning ended with the Pirates up 1-0.
Anthony Rizzo responded for the Cubs against Pirates starter Iván Nova with a two out single to center. Jason Heyward found some magic in the cleanup spot, hitting a homerun to center to put the Cubs ahead 2-1.
David Bote led off the third inning with a line drive to right field and Daniel Murphy followed with another single. Javier Báez loaded the bases on an error by second baseman Frazier. Bote scored on a sacrifice fly from Rizzo and Murphy and Báez were able to advance as well. Ian Happ walked to load the bases again with two outs, and Nova walked Kyle Schwarber for another Cubs run. Victor Caratini grounded out to end the inning, but the Cubs were able to add on and go ahead 4-1.
Báez notched his 111th RBI on a single, scoring Murphy in the fourth with two outs. Murphy had previously stolen second on what may have actually been an out, but the Pirates did not have a challenge available. Rizzo singled and scored Báez, but was then tagged out at third for the final out. The inning ended with the Cubs winning 6-1.
Corey Dickerson led off the Pirates half of the fourth with a solo home run to center to bring the score to 6-2.
Tanner Anderson pitched for the Pirates in the fifth and faced Happ, who hit an infield single. Schwarber followed with another single. Tommy La Stella pinch hit in Quintana’s spot and was intentionally walked to load the bases for Bote, who unfortunately grounded into a 4-3 double play.
Jesse Chavez took over for Quintana in the sixth and worked a quick inning. Marte grounded into a double play and Frazier grounded out to third. Quintana went five innings with four hits, two runs (both earned), and four strikeouts.
Happ singled against new Pirates reliever Michael Feliz in the seventh and advanced to third on a throwing error from the pitcher. Happ would not score, as Caratini popped out for the final out of the inning.
Happ moved from right field to left, Albert Almora, Jr entered the game to play center, and Heyward moved from center to right in the eighth inning. Carl Edwards, Jr took the mound for the Cubs and struck out leadoff man Kevin Newman. Colin Moran pinch hit in Feliz’s spot and drew a walk. Edwards was pulled after a second walk was given to Frazier.
Steve Cishek took over on the mound and induced a flyout from Marte. Moran and Frazier advanced to third and second, respectively, on a passed ball by Caratini with Josh Bell batting (pinch hitting for Osuna). Bell walked to load the bases. Two runs scored on a single from Díaz, putting the Pirates within two with the score now 6-4. Díaz then advanced to second on a throwing error by Báez. The final out was recorded on a groundout from Pablo Reyes.
With Steven Brault now pitching for the Pirates, Almora batted for the first time and grounded out. Bote followed with a swinging strikeout, and Murphy grounded out to short.
Justin Wilson came in to close it out and Mike Freeman entered the game at second base. Jordan Luplow popped out for the first out, followed by a single from Newman. Francisco Cervelli pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot and doubled. He was replaced by pinch runner Kevin Kramer. The Pirates evened the score at 6-6 on a double from Marte that Rizzo just missed. Jaime García took over for Wilson and got the final out on a groundout to short from Bell.
New Pirates pitcher Kyle Crick faced Báez first in the bottom of the ninth and got a swinging strikeout. Rizzo popped up and the ball was caught by Díaz for the second out. The Cubs could not walk it off, with Heyward grounding out to end the inning.
Brandon Kintzler entered the game to pitch in the tenth with one out after García faced two batters. A pleasant surprise ensued when Reyes grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
The hero of the night was Almora, who walked it off with a single. Happ walked to lead off the inning and was replaced by pinch runner Terrence Gore. Gore advanced to second on a sac bunt from Freeman and scored on the single from Almora. With the 7-6 win, the Cubs held on to first place and secured a playoff berth with the Cardinals’ loss to the Brewers.