Monday, June 23, 2014
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Pirates bullpen shuts door on Cubs

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[June 23, 2014]  CHICAGO -- The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen bent but didn't break on Sunday.

Pirates left-hander Tony Watson worked out of an eighth-inning jam while right-hander Mark Melancon gave up a run in the ninth and then shut the door as the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in the series finale at Wrigley Field.

The late inning efforts made a winner of right-handed starter Brandon Cumpton (3-2) who worked seven strong innings.

But it was Watson who helped secure Cumpton's win as he struggled then persevered in the eighth after the Cubs mounted their first serious threat of the day.

"He's got steely eyes out there," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "He's ready to do whatever he needs to do and pitches he needs to make. This guy's got shark eyes. He could be a sniper."

Watson suddenly had to deal with two Cub runners as he worked the eighth.

Center fielder Junior Lake reached on a successful bunt, second baseman Darwin Barney singled to left and pinch hitter Travis Wood delivered a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third.

But pinch hitter Welington Castillo, activated on Sunday from the 15-day disabled list, struck out and the threat ended when Watson struck out pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano looking.

"Obviously it was not an ideal situation but you want to pound the strike zone, make the pitch and get them to chase and let the boys play behind you," said Watson pitching in his second straight game. "Cump played a great game and to go out there and put a zero up was great."

Cumpton allowed just two hits through seven innings. He struck out four, walked two and allowed just four runners.

Melancon earned his 12th save and second in succeeding days despite giving up the ninth-inning run as right fielder Nate Schierholtz drove home first baseman Anthony Rizzo with a broken bat fielder's choice.

But the last-ditch threat ended as Lake flied out to right for the final out.

Cubs starter Jason Hammel (6-5) also had a solid outing, working seven full innings while giving up only two runs on six hits.

"The eight and the ninth were the innings we created the most stress for them," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Cumpton attacked the zone today. We tried to jump on him early in counts and we ended with a few strikeouts throughout and some fly balls.

"Ham did a nice job of keeping us in the ballgame. We gave ourselves a chance at the end."

Cumpton's run support came in the third inning on left fielder Travis Snider's fourth homer and an RBI single from second baseman Josh Harrison.

Snider -- subbing in the outfield for the absent Starling Marte -- led off the inning with a first-pitch solo home run to center.

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Catcher Chris Stewart then walked, advanced to second on Cumpton's sacrifice, reached third as right fielder Gregory Polanco grounded to second and scored on Harrison's infield single to make it 2-0.

"Snider sees me well, I guess," Hammel said. "It was a bad pitch ... and he obviously got it pretty good. The other one that Harrison hit off me was a hanging slider. Other than that I felt pretty good. Pretty good command, a lot of ground balls."

Cumpton allowed just one Cubs runner until the sixth when Hammel lined a one-out single to center and left fielder Chris Coghlan walked. But Cumpton escaped any damage as center fielder Ryan Sweeney popped to center and Rizzo grounded to short.

Hammel, who was replaced by right-handed reliever Neil Ramirez after seven innings, threw 101 pitches and struck out six while walking just one.

The victory was the Pirates' second straight as they took two of three and won their fourth series of the month.

NOTES: 2B Neil Walker, on the disabled list since June 8 following an appendectomy, was scheduled to play at Class A Bradenton on Sunday and rejoin the Pirates on Monday in Tampa Bay. ... RF Gregory Polanco went hitless for the first time in his 12-game major league career. He had hit in 11 straight games after being called up on June 10 from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... RHP Edinson Volquez (4-6, 4.67 ERA) goes against Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb (2-5, 3.48 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series Monday in Florida. ... 1B Anthony Rizzo's 12 homers since April 30 is tied for the most in the National League in that span with Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, Cincinnati's Todd Frazier and Miami's Giancarlo Stanton. Rizzo has 15 for the season. ... The Cubs' homestand continues Monday as RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 2.60 ERA) goes against Reds RHP Alfredo Simon (10-3, 3.05 ERA), who was tied with the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright for most wins in the National League. ... Both teams wore 1950s throwback uniforms on Sunday as part of this season's continuing Wrigley Field centennial celebrations.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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