PITTSBURGH (AP) — Gregory Polanco got three hits, including a go-ahead single in the seventh inning off Cubs reliever Phil Coke to lift the Pittsburgh Pirates over Chicago 5-4 on Thursday.
Josh Harrison hit his second double of the game when Cubs rookie Kris Bryant, making his first start in center field, took a roundabout path on a flyball. That set up Polanco’s hit.
Sean Rodriguez hit his first home run of the season as Pittsburgh rallied from a three-run deficit to manage a split of the four-game series.
Radhames Liz (1-1) picked up his first major league win since 2008 with two innings of shutout relief. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his third save.
Chris Denorfia and Starlin Castro each had two hits for the Cubs. Rookie second baseman Addison Russell doubled in a run for the first RBI of his career.
Brian Schlitter (0-2) gave up a double to Harrison with one out in the seventh. Harrison bolted to second as he took advantage of the play by Bryant, who’s normally a third baseman.
Coke intentionally walked pinch-hitter Corey Hart to for a lefty-lefty matchup with Polanco. With the Cubs shading him to the right side of the infield, Polanco fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and then singled.
The bullpen did the rest. Liz allowed just one hit in two innings to win for the first time since Sept. 14, 2008, when he played for Baltimore. Pittsburgh relievers retired the last eight Chicago batters.
Melancon, who struggled while blowing a save on Tuesday, had little trouble setting down Welington Castillo, Russell and Chris Coghlan as the Pirates ended an early 10-game homestand with a 6-4 mark.
Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke located his fastball well enough to record seven strikeouts but had issues when the Cubs managed to put the ball in play. Chicago touched him for four runs in five innings. Jonathan Herrera hit a two-run double in the second to put the Cubs in front. Locke walked in a run in the fifth but escaped without any further damage when Castro hit into a double play as Chicago went in front 4-1.
It was the reprieve the Pirates needed to get back in it. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks surrendered a solo shot to Rodriguez in the second but otherwise had little trouble until the bottom of the sixth. Polanco doubled home Harrison, Neil Walker followed with an RBI single off Edwin Jackson and Jordy Mercer tied the game with a single that plated Walker.
Cubs: 2B Javier Baez was scheduled to report to the team’s spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona, on Thursday. Baez has been on bereavement leave the last two weeks after the death of sister Noely on April 8.
Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen didn’t start on a scheduled day off before the start of a lengthy road trip. The plan was modified a bit when he struck out as a pinch hitter in the sixth. McCutchen is dealing with an achy left knee that the team will monitor. The 2013 NL MVP admitted he’s not quite 100 percent but believes the pain is manageable. Manager Clint Hurdle said the team will look for chances to give McCutchen a break when possible.
Cubs: The jewel of Chicago’s spending spree over the winter will go for his first victory of the season when Jon Lester (0-2, 6.89) makes his fourth start as the Cubs begin a weekend series Friday night in Cincinnati. Lester gave up six runs on 10 hits in a no-decision against the Reds on April 13.
Pirates: Pittsburgh starts a nine-game road trip through Arizona, Chicago and St. Louis on Friday against the Diamondbacks. Gerrit Cole (2-0, 2.65 ERA) makes his first career start at Chase Field on Friday.