Solid Stroman seals Cubs’ sweep over visiting Pirates

“I think we’ve got a little momentum going right now,” the pitcher said. “Things finally kind of turned in our favor.”

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Cubs starter Marcus Stroman reacts after a sixth-inning strikeout against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

Cubs starter Marcus Stroman reacts after a sixth-inning strikeout against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

If Cubs ace Marcus Stroman is bothered by his ongoing — and slow-going — contract talks, it’s not showing up in his results.

Stroman delivered yet another quality start, his MLB-best 13th of the season, as the Cubs topped the Pirates 7-2 on Thursday night to wrap up a three-game sweep before a crowd of 32,881 at Wrigley Field.

The win over the National League Central leaders (34-33) completed just the second sweep of the year for the Cubs (31-37), who moved within 3 ½ games of the division lead.

“I think we’ve got a little momentum going right now,” Stroman said. “Things finally kind of turned in our favor. I think everyone in this clubhouse knows that a type of run like this is truly [possible].”

Stroman (8-4) pitched four-hit ball over six innings, allowing two runs (both earned) while walking two and striking out five.

“I feel like when I’m healthy and my mind’s clear, this is what I’ve done,” he said. “This is not happening by accident. I put so much work into this that nobody sees.”

Remarked manager David Ross: “Looked like typical Stro, didn’t it? It feels like he’s through the fifth pretty regularly at 80 pitches and was able to give you a quality start again no matter what the traffic looked like early on.

“He never really panics, continues to make pitches.”

Stroman tweeted last week about his desire to work out a contract extension but added, “Club wasn’t interested in exploring it now. Will see how it plays out! Love everything about the @Cubs organization!”

How the Cubs’ brass feels about the situation is unclear, with team president Jed Hoyer reiterating he won’t discuss ongoing contract talks.

Meanwhile, the Cubs keep creeping closer to first place while making a case not to be sellers at the trade deadline. They broke Thursday’s game open in the bottom of the fifth, scoring five times to knock out Pirates starter Johan Oviedo (3-6) and go ahead 6-2. Cody Bellinger — in his first game back after a month on the injured list with a knee injury — and Ian Happ each had an RBI double. Christopher Morel delivered a run-scoring single off the glove of Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Nick Madrigal executed a safety squeeze. The last run scored when Pirates shortstop Tucupita Marcano booted Nico Hoerner’s grounder.

Happ also singled home a run in the third and tripled and scored in the sixth on Morel’s sacrifice fly.

Reset for Mervis

With Bellinger coming off the IL and slated to play first base for the time being, rookie Matt Mervis was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to open a roster spot. Mervis had a rough go at the plate, batting .167 with two doubles, three homers and 11 RBI over 27 games in his first MLB action.

Those offensive numbers aside, Mervis made a positive impression on Bellinger.

“The hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball consistently,” Bellinger said before the game. “That being said, I was very impressed with how his defense was every single day. . . . The talent’s there. He’ll be just fine.”

Injury updates

Although Bellinger is back, several other players are still at various points in their rehabilitation processes.

Starter Justin Steele (strained left forearm) threw a “light” bullpen session Thursday, according to the Cubs, while reliever Brandon Hughes (inflammation, left knee) played catch.

Infielder Edwin Rios (strained left groin) was expected to play for Iowa, as is reliever Codi Heuer this weekend as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

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