PITTSBURGH (AP) – Chris Coghlan hit a three-run triple and John Lackey worked in and out of trouble over five innings, helping the Chicago Cubs beat the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 on Tuesday night.
Coghlan’s second-inning drive off the wall in right-center against Ryan Vogelsong (3-7) gave the NL Central champions all the offense they would need to win for the seventh time in their last eight games. Chicago improved to 101-56, the club’s highest victory total since it won 104 games in 1910.
Dexter Fowler added an RBI double for Chicago. Lackey (11-8) worked around five hits and three walks to win his last regular season start.
Felix Pena recorded the final two outs for his first career save after Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run single off Justin Grimm to get the Pirates within two. Pena struck out Sean Rodriguez with the bases loaded to end it.
Vogelsong allowed four runs in five innings and fell to 0-3 with a 9.55 ERA in September.
Manager Joe Maddon is experimenting with his lineup over the season’s final week with the Cubs already assured of home-field advantage in the NL playoffs. That means plenty of playing time for Coghlan, who has been mired in a season-long slump but is hitting .423 (11 of 26) since Sept. 16.
A year removed from a tight race for a wild-card spot with the Pirates, the Cubs have dominated the NL Central thanks in part to their mastery of Pittsburgh. Chicago is 14-3 against the Pirates this season, outscoring them 109-64 in the process. A night after Kris Bryant led the way in a 12-2 drubbing, Coghlan followed suit.
Vogelsong managed to get out of a two-on situation in the first but couldn’t in the second. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases for Coghlan. The outfielder narrowly missed his first career grand slam when the ball landed just below the top of the fence. He sped to third for his second triple since rejoining Chicago in a trade with Oakland in June.
Lackey made sure it stood, though not without some shaky moments. He needed a double play to thwart a potentially big inning in the second and his defense bailed him out when Jordy Mercer’s line drive with the bases loaded in the fourth went straight to second baseman Munenori Kawasaki, who flipped to second to double off Rodriguez.
The Pirates went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position – both hits coming in the ninth – and left 11 men on base.
Cubs: OF Jorge Soler remained in Chicago while dealing with tightness in his side but could rejoin the team in Cincinnati on Friday. Maddon said an MRI on Soler came back negative, but with the division already clinched there’s no rush to get Soler back on the field. “Side bothers him, nothing horrible, nothing to be highly concerned about,” Maddon said. “I don’t know what we think right now, except that it wasn’t bad.”
Pirates: LF Starling Marte remained out of the starting lineup with back stiffness and grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. The All-Star has just three plate appearances – all as a pinch hitter – since Sept. 5.
Cubs: Jake Arrieta (18-7, 2.85 ERA) makes his final start of the regular season. The 2015 Cy Young Award winner is 9-1 with a 1.46 ERA in 12 career starts against the Pirates.
Pirates: Rookie Jameson Taillon (4-4, 3.49) faces the Cubs for the second time this season. Chicago touched him for four runs in four innings of a 10-5 loss on June 19.
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