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Cubs blank Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) — On a tough night for hitters in both lineups, Alex Avila didn’t need to hit the ball hard to get the Cubs on the board. As it turned out, his broken-bat liner into the right-field corner was the only right-place, right-time shot of the game.

Avila flared an RBI triple in the ninth inning, capping a duel between Jose Quintana and Gerrit Cole and lifting Chicago over the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 on Wednesday.

Avila’s hit against Daniel Hudson (2-6) left the bat at just 75 mph, but with Pittsburgh’s outfielders shifting the other way, pinch-runner Leonys Martin had plenty of time to score from second base.

“Not many,” Avila answered when asked how many broken-bat triples he’s had in his career. “I haven’t broken many bats (at all).”

It was Chicago’s third hit of the game after Cole limited Chicago to two knocks over eight innings, one of which was an infield single. Cole struck out eight and walked four while turning in his second scoreless outing in three starts.

“Cole pretty much had no-hit stuff,” Avila said. “You just had a feeling that we weren’t going to have many opportunities against him. If he made a mistake, we weren’t able to capitalize on it. He had unbelievable stuff. Just try to outlast him and keep the game where it was until we got into their bullpen and see if we got an opportunity there.”

The Pirates had runners aboard in all six innings against Quintana, but were unable to come through with a big hit. In the fifth inning, third baseman Kris Bryant made a leaping stab of Jordy Mercer’s line drive with two men on to save a run. Then in the sixth, the Pirates had two men on with no outs before Quintana got Jose Osuna to ground into a double play and a grounder from Sean Rodriguez to end the inning.

“It was just a tough ballgame,” Cole said. “We lined out so many times. It’s just unfortunate.”

Quintana finished with six strikeouts and had to scramble to keep pace with Cole.

“My mind was, keep the game close,” Quintana said. “He threw a really good game.”

Wade Davis struck out two during a perfect ninth for his 29th save, preserving a win for Pedro Strop (4-4) and ending Pittsburgh’s four-game winning streak.