PITTSBURGH – It was hard to tell whether the Pittsburgh Pirates were heading on a road trip or getting ready for a Stanley Cup playoff game after beating the Chicago Cubs, 4-2, Thursday for their fourth straight win.
All of the Pirates’ players and coaches wore Pittsburgh Penguins’ replica jerseys as they got ready to embark on a road trip to Milwaukee and Detroit. The Penguins even sent a custom-made No. 13 sweater to manager Clint Hurdle.
The Penguins lead the Ottawa Senators 3-1 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.
“There’s nothing much like playoff hockey,” Hurdle said. “We’re just getting into the spirit.”
Utility infielder Brandon Inge took things one step further before the game, arriving in the Pirates’ clubhouse dressed in a full hockey uniform and rollerblades.
“It’s something fun, something to change things up a little bit during a long season. Plus, we’ve got to support our boys,” said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh-area native.
The Pirates won for the 11th time in 13 games as Andrew McCutchen had three hits and two RBI.
Leadoff hitter Starling Marte singled and scored in each of the first two innings as Pittsburgh built an early 4-0 lead. The Pirates moved a season-best 11 games over .500.
“We’re playing good baseball, and I don’t think we’ve reached our ceiling yet,” McCutchen said. “The pitching has been good all year, but the hitting has kind of been up and down. The bats are eventually going to come around, and we should be even better when that happens.”
The Cubs lost their fourth in a row.
Edwin Jackson (1-7) gave up two runs in the first inning and two more in the second. He gave up six hits and struck out six in three innings and has a 6.11 ERA through 10 starts.
“I got beat with men on base with balls up in the zone,” Jackson said. “I had some times when I got it down, but in vital situations when I needed to keep the ball down I wasn’t doing that, and that pretty much sums up the game.”
Jackson is in his first season with the Cubs after signing a four-year, $52 million contract over the winter as a free agent.
“I think at times he tries too hard to justify his contract and overthrows,” Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. “I think he needs to relax and just be Edwin Jackson, the guy we liked enough to sign.”
Reliever Vin Mazzaro (3-0) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He replaced starter Jeanmar Gomez in the fourth inning following a rain delay of 1 hour, 47 minutes.
“I knew about a half-hour before the delay ended that I was going to come in to pitch, but you never know how the long the delay might last, so I tried to stay as prepared as possible,” Mazzaro said. “I felt like I was ready to go.”
Gomez allowed one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“I thought I had really good stuff today and control of all my pitches,” Gomez said. “Then it started raining hard, and that was it. I think I could have pitched a lot longer, but I’m frustrated about it. You can’t do anything about the rain.”
Jason Grilli pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and is a perfect 19-for-19 in save opportunities.
Marte led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, stole second with one out and scored on McCutchen’s single. McCutchen stole second and scored on Michael McKenry’s single.
Marte singled in the second and scored on Travis Snider’s triple that rolled to the 410-foot notch in left-center field. McCutchen added his second RBI single.
The Cubs got a run in the fourth when David DeJesus led off with a double and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s grounder. The Cubs had runners on the corners when two outs when play was halted, but Mazzaro got Welington Castillo to hit an inning-ending groundout after the delay.
Chicago cut the deficit to 4-2 in the seventh with Darwin Barney singling in Castillo, who had walked.
Jackson was struck in the rear end by a line drive off the bat of Marte in the second inning. Castro jammed his right ankle while being thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning by RF Travis Snider. Both Chicago players were able to stay in the game. … The Cubs’ road trip continues tonight at Cincinnati with RHP Scott Feldman (4-3, 2.19) facing Reds RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-4, 3.28). … RHP A.J. Burnett (3-4, 2.57) is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh at Milwaukee against RHP Marco Estrada (3-2, 5.44).