PITTSBURGH — Cubs starter Cole Hamels didn’t have his best stuff Friday night. Luckily, he had a few buddies on hand to help him out.
“The double play is a pitcher’s best friend,” he said with a smile.
A friend in need, indeed.
Chicago tied a major league record by turning seven double plays, including a game-ending effort by rookie third baseman David Bote on a grounder by David Freese to finish off a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs got six double plays on grounders — five with Hamels pitching — and one on a line drive. The Elias Sports Bureau said the Cubs became the third team in big league history to turn seven DPs in a nine-inning game, joining San Francisco in 1969 and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1942. Both the Giants and A’s lost those games.
“Crazy,” Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “A lot of it is the pitcher doing a great job of getting groundballs and little of it is luck with (the hitters) rolling over on some pitches. It’s also good quality defense and good focus throughout the game.”
Pittsburgh had runners on first and second in the ninth before Jesse Chavez got Freese to ground to Bote. Having hit a game-ending grand slam last Sunday night to beat Washington 4-3, Bote again was in the right place to cap off a win. He stepped on third and threw to first to cap the win.
“We were in a good spot all the time,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “We made some really good plays and absolutely turned the ones we were supposed to turn. We never gave them extra outs, so that was the pertinent part.”
Hamels (8-9) pitched seven solid innings. Kyle Schwarber hit a home run in the second off Trevor Williams (10-9). Chavez got his second save as the Pirates lost their fifth in a row.
“(The infielders) were great with how they stayed with it and pulled them off, especially to end innings in a tight game when you can’t afford one mistake,” Hamels said. “It was outstanding to see. There are always going to be days where you not sharp, but it’s nine guys trying to win a game.”
Freese also hit into the first double play in the first inning. Third baseman Javier Baez fielded his grounder, stepped on the bag and threw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to end the inning.
In the second, Josh Bell hit into an around-the-horn DP, Baez to Zobrist to Rizzo.
Corey Dickerson ended the third inning by grounding to Zobrist, who threw to shortstop Addison Russell at second. Russell’s relay to first was in time to get Dickerson.
Gregory Polanco hit into a 4-6-3 double play in the sixth. An inning later, Bell grounded into a 6-4-3, the last of five DPs turned behind Hamels.
Chicago had a disputed double play to end the eighth. With one out and Jorge De La Rosa pitching, pinch-hitter Adam Frazier lined to Zobrist, who threw to first to double up pinch-runner Kevin Newman. The Pirates challenged the call, but the play stood following a video review.
The Pirates put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth, but Chavez induced Freeze to hit into the final double play.
“Got them a lot of different ways,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of the double plays. “There were some balls that were struck really hard. Down in the zone, we would clip the top of them. Handful of other balls hit hard and lined out. So, we couldn’t find dirt, grass. They made plays and got good defense. They’ve had a good defense all year in the infield. Just goes to show you the benefit of a well-executed pitch in a certain situation.”
Hamels allowed five hits, struck out three and walked two as he improved to 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA in four starts since being acquired from the Texas Rangers in a trade.
Schwarber hit a drive down the right-field line in the second inning for his 21st home run, sending the NL Central-leading Cubs to their third straight win and increasing their lead to four games over Milwaukee.
The Cubs beat the Pirates by a 1-0 score for the second straight game. On Thursday night, Ian Happ’s homer accounted for the only run.
Williams gave up four hits in seven innings. He has surrendered just three runs in 36 innings over his last six starts.
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 47 minutes by rain.