CHICAGO — Mike Montgomery pitched six-hit ball into the eighth inning and helped himself at the plate, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
Montgomery (5-6) struck out four and walked none in his second start since he was inserted into the rotation after Jon Lester was placed on the 10-day disabled list. The left-hander was pulled after Jordy Mercer snapped his 17 1/3-inning scoreless streak with a leadoff homer in the eighth.
Carl Edwards Jr. got three outs before Wade Davis finished the six-hitter as Chicago moved 2 1/2 games ahead of idle Milwaukee for the top spot in the NL Central.
Trevor Williams (5-7) hung in there with Montgomery, pitching five innings of two-run ball, but Pittsburgh lost for the 11th time in its last 16 games. Mercer went 3 for 3, David Freese had two hits and Andrew McCutchen singled for the Pirates.
Chicago was clinging to a 1-0 lead when Montgomery beat out an infield chopper over Williams' head for a leadoff single in the fifth. He advanced to third on
Tommy La Stella's one-out single and scored when Anthony Rizzo's bases-loaded drive pushed McCutchen all the way back to the wall in center for a leaping catch.
The Cubs added three more in the eighth on Alex Avila's bases-loaded infield single and errors on second baseman Sean Rodriguez and catcher Chris Stewart.
Rodriguez threw wide of first while trying to retire Avila, and Stewart threw the ball into center field to bring home another run.
Montgomery also got some help from shortstop Javier Baez, who made a pair of nice defensive plays. First, he robbed Jose Osuna of a hit with a terrific diving stop and strong throw in the third. Then he made a diving catch in the fifth and got up to tag Mercer for an unassisted double play.
Pirates: INF Adam Frazier was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Frazier left Sunday's 5-2 win at Cincinnati after he grounded into a double play in the third inning. OF Jordan Luplow and RHP Dovydas Neverauskas were promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis, and RHP Johnny Barbato was sent down to Pittsburgh's top farm club.
Cubs: Lester threw 47 pitches to Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber during a simulated game. Lester, who is on the DL with left lat tightness and general shoulder fatigue, could need a minor league rehab start. "I think a lot of it will depend on how he feels tomorrow, how he feels like he came through today," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I thought he looked good. It looked like the ball was coming out well." ... Contreras (right hamstring strain) also took early batting practice. ... SS Addison Russell (right foot strain) and RHP Justin Grimm (finger infection) each made their first rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa. Russell went 1 for 3 with a double, and Grimm allowed a run while pitching one inning.
Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl and Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta pitch in the second game of the series on Tuesday night. Kuhl (6-9, 4.52 ERA) is 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA in five August starts. Arrieta (13-8, 3.49 ERA) has been on a roll since the All-Star break, going 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA in eight outings.