Pirates' Cumpton keeps Cubs at bay for 2-1 win at Wrigley

CHICAGO — Brandon Cumpton pitched seven shutout innings Sunday, working his way through the Chicago Cubs lineup on the way to a 2-1 win at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs made things interesting in the ninth, scoring a run off closer Mark Melancon.

The Pirates (37-38) got a third-inning home run by Travis Snider and an RBI single by Josh Harrison to take the series, 2-1, from last-place Chicago.

Cumpton, who has won three of his past four outings, went seven innings, giving up just two hits and two walks. He struck out four and threw just 87 pitches, 55 strikes.

“It’s a great example of the way these guys have come into the rotation and stepped up, moved in, and they’re pitching really well for us,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They stabilized the rotation. We’ve pitched much better through the month of June. We knocked our starter’s ERA down, and have just been more efficient all over the place.”

Cumpton has had eight starts since being called up from Class AAA in late May.

“It’s about getting back to my strengths,” he said. “Got ahead in the count, and tried to put guys away early. … A little bit early on we had some fly balls, and later on we started getting ground balls and guys were making plays for me. I didn’t even know what my pitch count was until I got done. I felt like I threw a lot more than I did.”

He gave up his first hit in the first, but stranded the runner with back-to-back popups. He walked a batter in the fifth, but closed out the inning with a double play.

The Cubs threatened in the sixth when starter Jason Hammel hit a one-out single and Cumpton walked Chris Coghlan.

But he got a popup and grounder to short to end the inning.

“His overall command was really solid,” Hurdle said. “First-pitch strikes, getting ahead, efficient with his pitches, a dozen guys getting retired in three or less. Fastballs in to a predominantly left-hand hitting lineup tied them up. The changeup played, the slider was on and off and, when it was, had really good angle. Was able to use his three pitches, maneuver through the sixth, a really good effort. Never backed down.”

Tony Watson pitched the eighth as the Cubs threatened with back-to-back singles.

John Baker beat out a grounder to second with a headfirst slide into first, followed by a Darwin Barney single. The two moved into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but Watson got two big strikeouts to end the inning.

For the final one, he got Justin Ruggiano looking on a four-seam fastball, after eluding him Saturday with a changeup.

“This guy, he could be a sniper,” Hurdle said. “He’s got shark eyes. Just steely, goes about his business.”

Melancon gave up two singles to open the ninth, and a run on a groundout, but got a strikeout and popup to get out of the jam.

The run scored when Nate Schierholtz hit a broken-bat groundout, but Harrison was able to snag the ball and flip it with his glove to Jordy Mercer at second to get the second out.

Snider drove a first-pitch home run over the center-field wall in the third to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Harrison lined one off Hammel’s backside for an RBI infield single, scoring Chris Stewart for a 2-0 lead.

“When I hit it off the bat [I thought] that’s up the middle,” Harrison said. “I saw him after his follow through and I was like, I knew it was going to hit him, but knew it wasn’t going to hit him in a dangerous spot like the head or anything. I saw it hit him. As I was running I looked back and saw it kicked away enough, and was like infield single.”

Hammel went seven innings and 108 pitches. He gave up six hits, two earned runs, walked one and struck out six.

Rookie Gregory Polanco’s 11-game hitting streak came to a halt, but he drew an eighth-inning walk and stole second for his first major league steal.

He took a cleat to his right hand while diving headfirst into the bag, but stayed in the game after a brief visit from the training staff.

The Pirates are expected to activate Neil Walker from the disabled list and get Starling Marte back for the Tampa Bay Rays three-game series, which starts tonight at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published June 22, 2014 12:00 AM

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