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Pirates take wild-card lead, beat Cubs

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(Charles Rex Arbogast)
The Cubs' Ryan Sweeney is safe at first as Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez is unable to catch a wide throw from third baseman Pedro Alvarez during the seventh inning Tuesday at Wrigley Field. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – Gerrit Cole threw six strong innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates took over the NL wild-card lead, beating the Cubs, 8-2, Tuesday night.

The Pirates moved one game ahead of Cincinnati, which lost to the Mets 4-2. Pittsburgh remained two games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.

One night after clinching their first postseason spot in 21 years, Cole and the Pirates showed few signs of a letdown. Cole hit a two-run single, Pedro Alvarez drove in three runs and Jordy Mercer homered.

Cole (10-7) won his fourth straight start, giving up two runs and seven hits. He struck out six and walked one.

Cole's single came during a three-run second inning against Chris Rusin (2-6).

The Cubs lost for the 11th time in 14 games, and their 50th defeat at home set a team record. Chicago plays its Wrigley Field finale Wednesday.

Rusin lost his third straight decision. Alvarez opened the scoring when his second-inning double to right got stuck in the ivy, driving in Marlon Byrd. With two outs, Cole singled home Gaby Sanchez and Alvarez.

Mercer hit a solo shot in the third, connecting for his seventh homer and first since Aug. 22.

Starlin Castro hit an RBI single in the Cubs third. Pittsburgh broke open the game in the fifth when Alvarez hit a two-run double for a 6-1 lead.

Chicago tried to rally in the sixth, scoring when Mercer mishandled Anthony Rizzo's bases-loaded grounder to shortstop, allowing Ryan Sweeney to score.

But Cole struck out Dioner Navarro and pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena before Donnie Murphy flied out deep on Cole's 34th pitch of the inning and his last one of the night.

NOTES: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said struggling All-Star Jeff Locke will not pitch Sunday against Cincinnati, and said Cole could "potentially" start that day while RHP Charlie Morton would be on his regular rest Saturday. But Hurdle didn't formally announce his starters after A.J. Burnett on Friday. Locke is 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in four September starts. ... Logan Watkins started at second base, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Darwin Barney was just getting a day off and would be back in the lineup Wednesday. Barney is hitting .156 in 20 September games. ... Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen didn't seem to enjoy too much of the champagne from Monday night. "After a while, it's a little too cold for me, but I'll take it," McCutchen said. "I think next time, we should just leave it hot." ... The pitching matchup Wednesday is Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.88) against Chicago RHP Jake Arrieta (3-2, 3.94).

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