Unbeaten Jake Arrieta struck out 11 in eight innings, Anthony Rizzo drove in four runs and the Cubs remained perfect against the Pittsburgh Pirates with an 8-2 victory on Saturday.
Arrieta (7-0) improved to 18-0 in 20 outings since Aug. 1. The Cubs have won his last 21 starts, extending a franchise record.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner gave up three hits and two runs, leaving with a 1.29 ERA.
Rizzo belted a towering three-run homer in the fourth and singled in Jason Heyward in the eighth. Heyward finished with three hits, Ben Zobrist reached four times and Addison Russell hit a two-run homer as major league-leading Chicago improved to 5-0 against Pittsburgh this year.
Bouncing back from a so-so start for his lofty standards, Arrieta moved to 8-1 in 11 career regular-season starts against the Pirates. He also struck out 11 in a five-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in last year’s wild-card game.
Francisco Cervelli hit a two-run single for Pittsburgh in the fourth, but the Pirates lost out on an opportunity for more when Josh Harrison’s liner went off Arrieta and right to Zobrist at second for an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners.
The Cubs then grabbed the lead for good in the bottom half. Heyward singled on a dribbler to second and Kris Bryant walked on a close call on a full-count pitch before Rizzo drove an 0-1 pitch from Jeff Locke (1-3)to the bleachers in right for his 11th homer.
Likely upset by the call on Bryant, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage was thrown out by plate umpire Brian Knight on a visit to the mound later in the inning.
Locke also served up Russell’s fourth homer with one out in the sixth and then hit Miguel Montero before he was replaced by Jared Hughes. Locke was charged with six runs and six hits.
Zobrist went 2 for 3 with two walks and is batting .536 (15 for 28) on the Cubs’ 10-game homestand. Dexter Fowler had two hits and drove in a run.
The Cubs activated Montero from the 15-day disabled list and designated outfielder Ryan Kalish for assignment. Montero had been sidelined by lower back tightness.
Montero’s return means the Cubs have three catchers on their roster, including David Ross and Tim Federowicz.
Cubs: OF Matt Szczur (mild right hamstring strain) is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday. “He is doing really well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Bussy (strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss) likes his progress. He’s moving well.”
Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (3-3, 3.78 ERA) and Cubs LHP Jon Lester (4-1, 1.96 ERA) meet on Sunday in the finale of the weekend series. Cole is 3-1 with a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts, with his only loss in that stretch coming against Chicago on May 2. Lester is 3-0 in his last four starts, including 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory at Pittsburgh on May 4.