WILLIAMSPORT, PA – It’s a contest to bring out the kid at heart, and after a road trip full of drama, it did just that for the Cubs.
There was no hitting issues, no worries about the bullpen, just some fun for Joe Maddon’s team as they finish off a long road trip. His team’s power and another strong start made that possible.
The Cubs supported Jose Quintana’s strong seven innings with three homers to provide plenty of cushion in a 7-1 win over the Pirates at BB&T Stadium at Bowman Field on Sunday night in the MLB’s Little League Classic. Even if the ninth inning was a little more dramatic than some would have liked, with Craig Kimbrel allowing a homer in his return from the IL and the Pirates loading the bases, there would be nothing like the previous three games as the Cubs improved to 66-58.
The victory was well in hand and so was a second-straight win that helped tie the Cubs with the Cardinals atop the NL Central as they head to a day off. It was a positive end to another tricky road trip for the Cubs, who finished 4-6 against the Reds, Phillies, and Pirates. It also marks the first time they’ve won a road series against an NL Central team, having lost seven and split one other.
Nick Castellanos started off the effort by smacking his sixth homer as a Cub in the first inning, with Jason Heyward following that up with a solo shot of his own in the third. Kyle Schwarber brought in two more a little quieter with a single to center that brought home Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo to make it 4-0.
After Kris Bryant’s RBI double in the fifth, the first baseman closed out the scoring with the team’s third homer of the night and Rizzo’s 23rd of the season to make it 7-0.
This was a relief for Quintana, who came away with a no-decision against the Phillies last Wednesday after striking out a career-high 14 strikeouts. He did his part again on Sunday, pitching seven shutout and walk-free innings with just five hits allowed and seven strikeouts. Derek Holland worked the eighth, Kimbrel had 15 pitches in the ninth, that included a homer allowed to Starlin Marte, before Pedro Strop finished it off, even if the bases ended up loaded.
By that point, the Cubs had done enough to ensure another bullpen collapse. Their power and Quintana’s pitching meant a fun night all around in a game to celebrate just that in the game of baseball.