Frazier stays hot, leads Pirates by listless Cubs 5-1
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't need to check the analytics before writing down Adam Frazier's name in the leadoff spot before Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs.
Watching Frazier tie a major league record by roping four doubles the night before gave Hurdle all the evidence he needed to know his second baseman was in a good place, one he seems intent on staying in indefinitely.
Frazier backed up his big night by going 4 for 4 - including a three-run shot off Mike Montgomery shortly after a long rain delay - and scored three runs to lead the Pirates to a 5-1 victory.
Frazier spent the first two months of the season in the leadoff spot before ceding it to rookie Kevin Newman, a move necessitated by a power dip, one that Frazier is intent on putting in the rearview mirror.
When Frazier ripped a single leading off the seventh, it gave him a hit in seven straight at-bats, becoming the first Pirate to reach that milestone since Freddy Sanchez did it on May 25-26, 2009. Frazier is 9 for 10 - with five doubles and a homer - through the first two games of a crucial homestand for Pittsburgh, which is trying to stay in the NL Central race.
"I feel comfortable right now hitting," Frazier said. "(Hitting coach) Rick (Eckstein) and I have been working the past few days. I feel like I'm on to something so. If it's leadoff or whatever, it doesn't matter. It's just you and the pitcher. Go hit."
Starling Marte had two hits for the Pirates and Josh Bell picked up his major-league leading 78th RBI on a sacrifice fly as Pittsburgh backed up an 18-run outburst against Chicago to pull within two games of .500 (41-43) for the first time since June 2.
Frazier led off the bottom of the first with a single off Kyle Hendricks (7-6), doubled off Hendricks again in the third, then took Montgomery into the seats above the Clemente Wall in right field shortly after a two-hour, five-minute rain delay to give Pittsburgh a five-run lead it never came close to squandering while winning for the ninth time in 13 games.
"Talking about a shot in the arm to start off the series the last two nights, what is he now, 9 for 10? Crazy," Hurdle said. "Really good. Special."
The Cubs managed just six hits against starter Joe Musgrove and five relievers and didn't get a runner past first base until a two-out double by Addison Russell in the eighth. Willson Contreras hit an RBI double in the ninth against Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez to avoid the shutout.
Chicago has dropped three straight and four of five to remain a game behind first-place Milwaukee in the Central, where all five teams are separated by 5 ½ games.
"We're obviously not playing the kind of baseball we want right now," Hendricks said. "I think it starts with making some better pitches. We're just not making the big pitch when we need to and getting behind early."
Hendricks, making his first start since going on the injured list on June 15 with right shoulder inflammation, ran into early trouble. Frazier laced the third pitch he saw from Hendricks into center field. Marte followed two batters later with a single of his own and Bell's drive to right field easily scored Frazier to put the Pirates up. Pittsburgh pushed the lead to 2-0 in the third when Frazier led off with a double and scored when Marte doubled to right.
Hendricks gave up two runs in three innings with a walk and four strikeouts for Chicago, which has dropped three straight and four of five.
"I left a change-up to Frazier and then I was trying to run one in on Marte with a fastball," Hendricks said. "Those two got me, but other than that I thought my fastball command was better than expected, change-up was pretty good. It's just good to be back out there."
Dillion Maples came on for Hendricks in the fourth but was pulled after a walk and a two-out pinch-hit by Steven Brault - a starting pitcher by trade. Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to bring in the left-handed Montgomery to face the left-handed Frazier and Frazier responded by drilling his fourth home run of the season.
"Frazier, that's as hot as you can get right now," Maddon said. "So that was unfortunate. After that, we just couldn't muster any offense."
Cubs: An MRI exam confirmed LHP Cole Hamels is dealing with a strained left oblique but nothing more serious. Hamels will undergo treatment this week and the team will re-evaluate his status after the All-Star break.
Cubs: Yu Darvish (2-4, 4.98 ERA) looks for his first victory since April 27 on Wednesday. Darvish had a streak of 10 straight no-decisions end in a loss to Atlanta last week.
Pirates: Chris Archer (3-6, 5.50) is scheduled to make his 15th start of the season on Wednesday. Archer left a victory over Milwaukee last Friday after four innings due to discomfort in his left hip.
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