PITTSBURGH – Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a two-run homer, Andrew McCutchen hit his 12th home run of the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates edged the Cubs, 4-3, on Saturday night.
Ivan Nova (7-4) pitched seven strong innings and Pittsburgh's bullpen made it stand up a night after collapsing late in a 9-5 loss. Felipe Rivero got the final five outs for his third save.
Jake Arrieta (6-5) hit the fifth home run of his career but struggled with his command late. He is winless in his past five starts against the Pirates. Arrieta was removed in the fifth inning following a sequence in which he uncorked two wild pitches and hit a batter.
Addison Russell hit his sixth home run of the season for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo led off the game with a single and went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, but the defending World Series champions dipped back below .500 (33-34).
The Cubs have been unable to get anything going as their hangover from the franchise's first title in 108 years lingers. It looked like they found something Friday night, when they erupted for six runs in the ninth to rally for a win.
The Cubs couldn't push it forward as Nova did what he's done every fifth day all season: he took the ball and held onto it as long as he could. Nova became the first Pirates pitcher to work at least six innings in each of his first 13 starts since Eddie Solomon in 1981.
Nova received some early help from the slumping Polanco, who came in hitting just .096 (3 for 31) in his last seven games. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle opted to keep Polanco in the third spot in the batting order anyway, and Polanco delivered with a line-drive home run over the wall in right field that put the Pirates up, 2-0, in the first inning.
Arrieta tied it in the fifth with a two-run homer of his own, his first since June 27, 2016, against Cincinnati.
The tie didn't last long. Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the inning with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single by Adam Frazier. Arrieta, playing through a laceration on his right (pitching) thumb, then sailed another wild pitch – his major league-leading 11th – clear over the head of Pittsburgh's Francisco Cervelli. He left after hitting David Freese with a pitch to load the bases.
After starting his career 9-1 with a 1.46 ERA against the Pirates, Arrieta is now 0-3 with a 7.80 ERA in his last five starts against Pittsburgh.
Nova allowed Russell's home run in the sixth but stayed in the game and pumped his fists after striking out pinch-hitter Jon Jay with the tying run on in the seventh. Nova allowed three runs and six hits, walking two and striking out six.
Pirates: Gave 2B Josh Harrison the day off for just the third time this season. Hurdle pointed to a draining stretch for Harrison – who leads the team with a .302 batting average – and a lackluster history against Arrieta (.077 average) as the major factors in the decision.
Cubs: Struggling veteran John Lackey (4-7, 5.26 ERA) will look for his first win in a month on Sunday in the series finale. Lackey is 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his last five starts.
Pirates: Jameson Taillon (3-1, 2.90) will try to win his second straight start since returning from a cancer scare. Taillon pitched five scoreless innings on Monday just five weeks removed from a procedure to deal with testicular cancer.