(The Sports Xchange) - First baseman Anthony Rizzo’s two-run home run, his 30th of the season, started a six-run fifth inning as the Cubs rallied for a crucial 9-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
The Cubs turned a 4-3 deficit into a 9-4 lead with the fifth-inning outburst that included a two-run double by left-handed reliever Clayton Richard (4-2) and RBI singles by rookie shortstop Addison Russell and second baseman Tommy La Stella.
The Cubs (85-61) got within two games of the Pirates (87-59) for the first wild-card berth as they seek their first post-season since 2008.
“We come ready to play,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m telling you, man.
“Mission accomplished in one sense is that our guys came out and played the same game they’ve been playing all year long.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching - just play the same game.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been saying the same thing to his team, however, Pittsburgh no longer seem so assured of hosting the wild-card game for third successive year.
“We played hard, we didn’t play well enough and we didn’t play good enough baseball,” Hurdle said.
“We’ve got to play better baseball moving forward.”
Both teams trail St. Louis (91-54) in the NL Central.
The Cardinals play the Milwaukee Brewers later and then open a three-game series against the Cubs at Chicago on Friday afternoon.
“The division title is still the goal,” Maddon said. “That’s what we’re after.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had his second successive three-hit game while La Stella and Russell drove in two runs each.
Richard allowed two runs in 3-1/3 innings for the win, while Travis Wood pitched two scoreless innings for his second save, striking out five.
“The whole group was outstanding,” Maddon said. “A lot of good stuff going on out there with a lot of guys picking each other up.”
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton (9-8) was rocked for six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
Right fielder Gregory Polanco and first baseman Pedro Alvarez both homered while finishing with two hits and two RBIs for the Pirates.
Left fielder Travis Snider also hit a homer, while second baseman Neil Walker and shortstop Jordy Mercer had two hits each.
Compiled by Greg Stutchbury