PITTSBURGH (AP) — Anthony Rizzo just missed a chance at making history at the start of the game but was happy with the ending.
Rizzo almost led off his third straight game with a homer, losing his bid after a replay review, before helping key a six-run rally in the ninth inning that sent the Chicago Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-5, on Friday night.
The Cubs won for just the third time in nine games, putting the World Series champions back at .500 with a 33-33 mark.
Manager Joe Maddon wasn’t around to see the comeback — he was ejected in the first inning after Rizzo’s drive into the Allegheny River was initially called fair, then ruled foul. In Rizzo’s first two tries as a leadoff man in his seven-year career, the slugging first baseman who usually bats cleanup led off both games this week with home runs against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
The record for most consecutive games with a leadoff home run is three by Brady Anderson in 1996 for the Baltimore Orioles.
“That was absolutely a home run,” Rizzo said. “There is no way it could have gone over the pole foul because this is one of the shortest right fields in the league. I hit it too hard for it to have time to go foul.
“I respect the umpires and I never like to criticize them because I know they give their very best, but they got that one wrong. At least, we won the game and that’s all that really matters.”
Chicago trailed 4-3 until Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras began the ninth with doubles off Juan Nicasio (1-3) to tie it. Tony Watson, who was removed as the closer last week in favor of a Nicasco-Felipe Rivero combo, gave up a go-ahead single to pinch-hitter Jon Jay.
“They just came in aggressively and made their hits and their swings,” said Nicasio, who was charged with four runs without recording an out. “No excuses. I threw my pitches where I wanted them. They did their part.”
Rizzo added a two-run single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, and Addison Russell had a two-run double.
“It seemed like everybody contributed in that inning,” Russell said. “That’s the type of offense I know we can be when everyone is clicking.”
Closer Wade Davis gave up a run in the ninth, but struck out Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco with the bases loaded to end it.
Koji Uehera (2-3) pitched a scoreless inning.
Tommy La Stella and Ian Happ, who grew up in Pittsburgh and was playing his first game at PNC Park, had two hits each for the Cubs. La Stella had a single in the ninth.
Josh Bell hit his 12th homer and a two-run triple to help the Pirates rally from 3-0 deficit. Andrew McCutchen also had two hits, including a single in the sixth that scored Bell and put Pittsburgh ahead 4-3.
Cubs starter Eddie Butler allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings. The Pirates’ Trevor Williams went five innings and gave up three runs.
Cubs: INF/OF Ben Zobrist (inflamed right wrist) was placed on the 10-day DL, retroactive to June 13, and is expected to be activated when first eligible June 24. La Stella was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. … RHP Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) had a second MRI that revealed no new injuries but there is no timetable for his return.
PIRATES SIGN TOP PICK
RHP Shane Baz, the Pirates’ first-round selection in this week’s amateur draft, signed and will make his professional debut later this month in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Baz, who turns 18 on Saturday, starred at Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas.
Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (6-4, 4.68 ERA) starts Saturday night against RHP Ivan Nova (6-4, 2.83). Arrieta allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start, a no-decision against Colorado, but is 9-3 against Pittsburgh in his career. Nova has pitched at least six innings in all 13 starts this season.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.