Curtain Call: David Ross’ homer wins it for Cubs


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Ross with the curtain call. <span style=Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki / USATODAY">
Ross with the curtain call. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki / USATODAY

CHICAGO -- David Ross had a squeeze bunt to score a run and hammered the go-ahead shot to lead Chicago to a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The Cubs are now a season-high 26 games over .500 at 46-20.

The game looked grim from the start for the Cubs, with Jordy Mercer, the Pirates’ starting shortstop and leadoff hitter, homering in the first at-bat of the night. As for the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, center fielder Dexter Fowler, exited the game after the first inning with a hamstring injury suffered while running to first on a groundout in his first at-bat.

Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit a leadoff home run of his own to tie the game at one run apiece. Mercer, who finished the game 2-4, continued his hot start in the top of the third, doubling to left and later scoring on a single by center fielder Andrew McCutchen to give the Bucs a 2-1 lead.

Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester’s shaky start became much shakier the ensuing inning, when he found himself in a serious jam. With the bases loaded and no outs, Lester responded under pressure by striking out the next two batters. However, Mercer, the bane of Lester’s evening, was then hit by a pitch, drawing in a run. Lester struck out the next batter, though, and escaped the inning with minimal damage.

To continue the trend of exciting leadoff at-bats, Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist led off the bottom half of the fourth with a bunt single. Despite Zobrist being thrown out due to a fielder’s choice grounder hit by third baseman Javier Baez soon after, his gutsy bunt was not done in vain. Baez stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch by Pirates starting pitcher Jonathon Niese. Soon after, with runners on the corners, Cubs catcher David Ross bunted up the first base line, and Baez scored to cut the Cubs’ deficit to one.

In the next inning, Bryant blasted a 448-foot solo shot to left field, his 16th home run of the season. Leaving the bat at nearly 110 miles per hour, Chicago Cubs slugger Kris Bryant’s moonshot over the ivy-covered wall in left field at Wrigley Field was perhaps the one of the most impressive home run of the phenom’s young career.

While Bryant’s bomb tied the game at 3-3, Ross’ homer the following inning gave the Cubs their first lead of the night. Chicago had a great opportunity to extend its lead in the bottom of the seventh, but, with one out and the bases loaded, Baez grounded into a double play that ended the inning.

Meanwhile, Cubs reliever Pedro Strop had taken Lester’s place on the mound at the start of the seventh inning, and he pitched well, going three up, three down in the seventh. Although Cubs manager Joe Maddon made two pitching changes in the eighth, the Cubs made it through unscathed, later taking a one-run lead into the ninth.

Cubs closer Hector Rondon garnered his 12th save of the season on the night, mowing down the Pirates in the top of the ninth. Despite his precarious performance, Lester earned the win for his efforts, moving to 9-3 on the year. Niese was declared the game’s loser and dropped to 6-4 overall.

Through eight games against the divisional rival Pirates this year, the Cubs are an impressive 7-1. With Saturday’s victory, the Cubs are now 14 games ahead of the 33-35 Pirates in the National League Central. The Cubs will bring out the brooms as they look for a sweep tomorrow night. Chicago starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (4-6) will duel rookie Jameson Taillon (1-0) of Pittsburgh.

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