PITTSBURGH (AP) — Scott Baker has been superb in his first two starts for the Chicago Cubs yet has nothing to show for it.
Baker wasn’t complaining Saturday night after getting a no-decision. Gerrit Cole pitched seven strong innings and got home run help from Marlon Byrd and Jose Tabata, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Cubs 2-1.
The Pirates have won five of six and moved into a first-place tie in the NL Central with St. Louis.
Baker pitched well in his second start with the Cubs since recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. He allowed one run and three hits in six innings, striking out four without a walk.
Last Sunday, in his first major league outing since Sept. 22, 2011, with Minnesota, Baker pitched five scoreless innings against Milwaukee.
“He threw the ball well again,” Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. “His velocity was a tad better this time and he has that live fastball that really moves. There’s still something there, that’s for sure. He’s done a good job.”
Though Baker has an 0.82 ERA, his record is 0-0.
“It’s definitely fun to go out there and compete, first and foremost, especially after having something I love kind of taken away from me,” Baker said. “The biggest thing you can do as a starting pitcher is give your team a chance to win and I’ve been pleased to be able to do that after being out for so long.”
Cole (8-7) gave up one run and five hits. The rookie struck out seven and walked three.
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.
Byrd hit the tiebreaking home run in the seventh off James Russell (1-6).
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 homer from Tabata in the sixth off Baker. Pittsburgh maintained a 2½-game lead over Cincinnati in the NL wild-card race.
Byrd was very impressed by Baker.
“He was pounding the zone with strikes, so it was hard to be patient,” Byrd said. “He’s coming off surgery and he’s not 100 percent but he was still able to pitch really well. He did an amazing job.”
Added Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: “The ball was moving. He was able to pitch up in the zone, stay in the zone at hands level or higher and we didn’t square up many balls against on him until Tabata put about as good a swing on a ball as he’s had all year.”
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.
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.
NOTES: OF Brian Bogusevic started in left field for Chicago in place of LF Junior Lake for the third time in four games. Bogusevic entered the day hitting .357 with three home runs in nine September games but went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. … The four-game series concludes Sunday with Cubs LHP Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05) facing Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.92).
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