Josh Bell hits grand slam in Pirates' 12-6 win over Cubs

It turns out that the Pittsburgh Pirates can indeed beat the Chicago Cubs and ace pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Josh Bell hit a grand slam in his second major-league at bat, one of four homers by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 12-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night. "To be honest, it gives you a good appreciation for what they do every day". "We've had plenty of opportunities". "We're just going to enjoy the time". "We need to reset and get guys rested up. We do need the break to get with their families and get away from baseball for a little while then come back and pick up where we left off". The over is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.

In Baltimore, Jonathan Schoop scored the tying run on a seventh-inning balk and delivered the decisive RBI single in the eighth inning. McCutchen, who finished in the top five of the NL MVP voting each of the past four seasons, raised his batting average to.244, still a career low.

"I'm on top of a cloud right now, I'll tell you that", Bell said. They also have the biggest run differential in the league (plus-139) and a franchise-record 120 first-half home runs. "I'm out there worrying about mechanics, then I'm not executing pitches". Singles by Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras loaded the bases, setting up a one-out, two-run single by Addison Russell. I get it. It'd be wonderful to do that.

Niese allowed eight hits and five runs through 3 2/3 innings.

"I'm really done worrying about my mechanics", Niese said. "If I'm executing pitches, that's all that matters, and I'm not".

Meanwhile, the Pirates have won nine of their past 10 games to move within 6.5 games of the NL Central-leading Cubs.

"I feel like we're fortunate to be (up 6 1/2 games) right now, actually", manager Joe Maddon said. Chicago has lost eight of nine. On Sunday, rookie Albert Almora Jr. hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead, and Kris Bryant hit a single with two outs in the eighth to score Matt Szczur with the winning run. Miguel Montero's fifth homer, a two-run blast in the sixth off Juan Nicasio, pulled Chicago into a tie. The offense has luckily begun to pick up again (Jason Heyward in particular is making a lot more solid contact), but the defense, too, has shown cracks (including a couple of questionable judgment calls by Javy Baez today), and certainly all eyes have been on the Cubs' pitchers. 2B Josh Harrison was lifted from the game in the third inning. In his last two starts, Lester has totaled 4 1/3 innings of work, giving up 13 runs. The poor outing boosts his ERA from 2.67 to 3.01 on the season.

In New York, Daniel Murphy homered for the sixth time this year against his former team, powering Max Scherzer and Washington to the win. He had a career ERA (3.91) that seemed to line up with a number four starter and his FIP (3.84) was right in line with that figure.

NOTES: Polanco (strained left hamstring) left for a pinch runner in the seventh inning after he reached on an error.... He kept the deficit at one run for his two and one third innings pitched. Twice Sunday, he either tied the game or gave the Pirates the lead. The Pirates are 3-8 in their last 11 during game 3 of a series and 1-4 in Nieses last 5 starts.

That's why Dexter Fowler should be there for the All-Star festivities after testing his hamstring at Class-A South Bend and wisely withdrawing as a starting outfielder, because the optics of playing in a TV special before rejoining the Cubs lineup would have been bad for an upcoming free agent as well as the organization's chain of command.

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