The Cubs dropped their third straight game to the last place Pirates on Thursday, their fifth loss in six games, setting up a big weekend series against the crosstown White Sox for the NL Central race.
"We're trying to flush this one," manager David Ross said. "We're going to throw this one in the trash and start new tomorrow."
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl no-hit the Cubs into the sixth inning, and Pittsburgh’s offense tallied 14 hits on a bevy of balls in play.
The Cubs’ division lead and magic number stand at three, pending the outcome of Thursday’s Brewers-Cardinals game, with three games remaining. The Reds are also now three games back of first place, entering their weekend set against the Twins.
Quick takes from the 7-0 loss:
Kuhl entered Thursday with little success against the Cubs in his career (6.75 ERA, 11 games/10 starts). But on this day, he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, broken up by an Anthony Rizzo double off the right field wall.
The Cubs struck out eight times and made some hard contact for outs, including a double play on a well-struck Jason Kipnis line drive in the seventh inning. But for the fifth time in seven games, the offense scored one run or less.
Pittsburgh’s offense was anchored Thursday by four home runs, three off Alec Mills, who allowed four earned runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Colin Moran, Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier took Mills deep, while Josh Bell took Kyle Ryan out of the park. Thursday's four home runs is a single-game season-high for the Pirates.
"Any game, no matter how we're doing, giving up a couple home runs like that early is not good," Mills said. "Really, I was not able to throw anything for a strike today, honestly.
"Probably the worst outing of the year for me, I would say."
Dating back to last Tuesday against Cleveland, the Cubs have two home runs, both by Anthony Rizzo this series. They’ve gone deep 14 times this month, fewest in baseball.
One positive the Cubs can take away from their series in Pittsburgh is how Rizzo hit. The Cubs first baseman went 5-for-14 (.357) with two home runs and a .438 on-base percentage.
David Ross said Sunday is “fluid” with regards to who the Cubs starting pitcher will be. Jon Lester is likely to start on Saturday, and José Quintana is the likely starter “as of right now,” Ross said.
"I continue to push the professional at-bats and trying to win each pitch and focus on what you can control. These guys, they've hit a lot of balls hard. We can't control where they go. The guys are putting in the work and the hitting coaches are grinding with them and putting in all the work. Hopefully, this thing starts to turn the other way for us soon,” –Ross pregame on the Cubs offense.
The Cubs had a .100 BABIP on Thursday, compared to Pittsburgh’s .435
The Cubs and White Sox conclude the regular season this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field. Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.22 ERA) is the Cubs’ probable starter on Friday, and the White Sox is to be determined.