PITTSBURGH – Gerrit Cole pitched seven strong innings and got home run help from Marlon Byrd and Jose Tabata, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Chicago Cubs 2-1 Saturday night.
The Pirates have won five of six. They began the day one game behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead.
Cole (8-7) gave up one run and five hits. The rookie struck out seven and walked three.
Tony Watson pitched the eighth and Mark Melancon worked the ninth to finish off the five-hitter and earn his 15th save in 17 chances.
Byrd hit a solo home run off James Russell (1-6) in the seventh to put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1.
It was Byrd’s 23rd home run of the season and second in 17 games since being acquired Aug. 27 from the New York Mets in a trade. He is hitting .323 for the Pirates.
The Pirates, looking for their first postseason berth since 1992, got a tying home from Tabata in the sixth. Pittsburgh maintained a 2½-game lead over Cincinnati in the NL wild-card race.
Chicago got its run on Nate Schierholtz’s RBI double to right-center in the first inning. Anthony Rizzo also tried to score on the hit from first base, but was thrown out on a strong relay from Byrd to second baseman Neil Walker to the plate.
The 23-year-old Cole has been outstanding in his last six starts, going 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA with 35 strikeouts and nine walks. He won for just the second time in his last eight home starts.
Scott Baker pitched well again in his second start with the Cubs since recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, allowing one run and three hits in six innings with four strikeouts and no walks.
Last Sunday, in his first major league outing since Sept. 22, 2011, with Minnesota, Baker pitched five scoreless innings against Milwaukee.
NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez will not pitch again this season because of continuing pain in his left arm. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with forearm tightness, continued to feel pain Saturday, two days after pitching a five-inning simulated game. ... Pirates LF Starling Marte had six plate appearances Saturday in a simulated game, facing LHP Kris Johnson. Though Marte continues to feel pain in his bruised right hand, the Pirates are hopeful he may be able to return to the lineup as soon as Monday. ... OF Brian Bogusevic started in left field for Chicago in place of OF Junior Lake for the third time in four games. Bogusevic entered the day hitting .357 with three home runs in nine September games. ... The four-game series concludes Sunday with Cubs LHP Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05) facing Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.92).