By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — On the mound against the Pirates on Sunday, Cubs left-hander Jon Lester was getting that same old feeling he had when he pitched a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 2008.

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But his flirtation with the record books one more time came to an end when Starling Marte drilled a fastball into right field with one out in the seventh inning for Pittsburgh’s first hit. After Marte stole second base, Jung Ho Kang doubled to right with two outs, scoring Marte with the first run of the game of what was an eventual 2-1 win by the Pirates, who were led by eight shutout innings by Gerrit Cole.

“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Lester said. “Cole didn’t pitch the way he wanted to against us last time, and he came back to avenge that.”

Lester took the loss, despite the Cubs coming back to score a run in the bottom of the ninth inning. One run wasn’t enough because Kang had struck again with a solo homer in the top of the ninth off of Hector Rondon.

For Lester, his one-run, two-hit outing went for naught.

“He is a really good fastball hitter,” Lester said of the pitch that Kang hit for a double. “I was trying to go inside, did not locate. I did make a lot of good pitches today. As the game went on, I was able to find my curveball a little bit. It sucks to go through that whole sequence and leave one in the middle. The guy did not miss it and hit a double. That was a tough one. You do have to look at the other 100 or so pitches today that worked.”

The Cubs won two of three from Pirates over the weekend, but they couldn’t solve Cole in the finale. He allowed just three hits in the eight innings while striking out seven without allowing a walk.

For a Chicago team that thrives on long at-bats and run production, Cole was a puzzle that couldn’t be pieced together.

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“He threw well,” was all Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward would say about Cole’s performance.

Cole took his own shot at the Cubs and their ascension to the top of the division.

“I don’t think they are the best team in baseball,” Cole told reporters without prompting, throwing further fuel into an already volatile rivalry.

The Pirates cut the Cubs’ division lead back to eight games, winning for the first time against Chicago in six tries.

“Cole had a really good game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.”He had really good stuff and command. That is why he pitched as deeply into the game with a minimal amount of pitches.”

The Cubs went 7-3 on their homestand. They begin a 10-game road trip in Milwaukee on Tuesday evening.

“The wind will not be blowing in,” Maddon said, alluding to the cold and windy stretch at at home for his club “We all love playing here, but it is nice to get away and come back to it. The change of venue and change of scenery is good. You never want to play all home games. It is mapped out pretty well. I think the guys are looking forward to the trip and then getting home.”

The Cubs are 15-3 against the NL Central this season.

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Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.