Pirates hope to end Cubs’ season-long hex

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The visiting Chicago Cubs are perfect against Pittsburgh this year, but the Pirates served notice that they can still put up a good game.

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There are three games left in the series, including a Friday night contest, after Chicago scratched for a 5-4, 10-inning win Thursday.

The Cubs took a 3-0 lead in the second inning but didn’t score again until getting two in the top of the 10th. Pittsburgh tied it in the third and scored once in the bottom of the 10th but still fell to 0-7 against the Cubs this season.

Chicago has equaled its best start against the Pirates since beginning with seven head-to-head wins in 2008. Overall, the Cubs have won five of six.

Pittsburgh, which has lost two in a row overall, is getting all it can from outfielder Joshua Palacios.

After appearing in a combined 42 games for the Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals over the previous two seasons, Palacios has become something close to a regular this season, logging 61 games. And while he is hitting just .207, he has shown power and has been coming on.

Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time in his career on Thursday, he belted his sixth homer in the third inning. The two-run, game-tying shot became the 70th homer in PNC Park history to reach the Allegheny River, the 65th to get there on a bounce.

That came three days after he hit a homer and had five RBIs against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Palacios said it’s a matter of getting balls in the air rather than on the ground “and the results are looking good.”

Pirates manager Derek Shelton added, “He creates a ton of torque with his lower half and gets the barrel out. He’s ready to hit every pitch.”

On Friday, Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 3.83 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (10-8, 4.22).

Hendricks has gone 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA over his past three starts. On Sunday, he limited the Kansas City Royals to one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings, with three strikeouts and one walk, en route to a 4-3 win.

“He’s a really big part of our success around here,” Cubs manager David Ross said of Hendricks. “He’s just a staple. Whether he goes out and has a great outing or a bad outing, he’s so even-keel with his work and his demeanor that he’s just really important to this team as a whole.”

Against the Pirates, Hendricks is 9-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 career starts. That includes a road win on June 21, when he held Pittsburgh to three runs, one earned, and two hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Keller might be rounding back into the early-season form that established him as Pittsburgh’s ace.

The All-Star lost five decisions in a row from July 3-Aug. 3. Since then, he had two no-decisions followed by a win his last time out, on Saturday at Minnesota. He has a 3.18 ERA over those three games.

Against the Twins, he gave up two runs and seven hits while striking out 12 and walking one in six innings for his first win since June 28. He finished one strikeout shy of his career best.

Keller is 2-4 with a 5.12 ERA in nine career games, eight of them starts, against the Cubs. He has not faced them this year.

—Field Level Media

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