Cubs sweep Pirates, extend winning streak to six as rotation shines

Right-hander Keegan Thompson threw a career-high seven innings on Tuesday in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory.

SHARE Cubs sweep Pirates, extend winning streak to six as rotation shines
Cubs starter Keegan Thompson held the Pirates to two runs, none earned, through seven innings Tuesday.

Cubs starter Keegan Thompson held the Pirates to two runs, none earned, through seven innings Tuesday.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Cubs didn’t sweep a single series before the All-Star break. Now they’ve swept two straight after extending their winning streak to six games Tuesday with a 4-2 victory over the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

“We’ve got winners here,” manager David Ross said. “We’ve got guys that know how to win, we’ve got guys learning how to be successful and win, and we’re trying to move that direction as fast as possible. And I think we’re getting there.”

The win also helped the Cubs continue to reverse an unfortunate trend. Entering Tuesday, their .385 winning percentage in games decided by two runs or fewer was the second-lowest in MLB, better than only the Angels. Their last three wins, against the Phillies and Pirates, were all decided by two or fewer runs. And on Tuesday, they also improved their record when scoring first — which they’ve done in a whopping 61 games — to above .500 (31-30).

“If you get good starting pitching, you’re going to be in every ballgame,” Ross said earlier this week.

In the last six games, every Cubs starter has pitched at least five innings and held his opponent to two runs or fewer. On Tuesday, Keegan Thompson (8-4) threw a career-high seven innings without giving up an earned run. He struck out seven with no walks.

“That was as good as we’ve seen Keegan,” Ross said.

The winning streak — and passing the Pirates to take over the No. 3 spot in the National League Central standings — won’t change the Cubs’ standing at the trade deadline. With a 40-57 record, they’re still a ways away from playoff contention.

Farewell memento in left

In case Tuesday marked left fielder Ian Happ’s last home game with the Cubs, fans in the left-field bleachers signed a ball for him as a parting gift.

“They’re there every day,” Happ said. “No matter what, no matter the weather, April ’til now, they’re there every single day. And they care so much. And that was really meaningful.”

The signed ball marked one of several moments between Happ, catcher Willson Contreras and the Wrigley fans in the last home series before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. After the game, Happ and Contreras had their moment together as they embraced in the dugout.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Happ said. “When you play with somebody for that long, you share so many experiences. It’s years and years of 200-plus days together in a row. You spend more time with these guys than you do with your family during the season.

“So to have all of those memories and experiences, and 2017 and a playoff run, and his first All-Star Game — and his second and his third — and all the big hits and big moments, and then that all kind of comes together and floods you in one moment. There’s a ton of emotion that goes into that.”

False alarm on Robertson

A week before the trade deadline, Cubs fans were already on high alert — and then closer David Robertson wasn’t available to pitch in a save situation Tuesday. But Ross said Robertson’s recent workload was the reason why reliever Mychal Givens, not Robertson, took the ball in the ninth inning.

Robertson threw in back-to-back games in Philadelphia. He hasn’t appeared in the Cubs’ last two games.

“If it were a night game, he probably would have been available,” Ross said.

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