By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jung Ho Kang scored on Corey Dickerson’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to cap a frantic rally and lift the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.
Josh Bell hit his 26th home of the season and fourth of the series and added a double to give him 59 extra-base hits, the most ever by a National League player before the All-Star break.
The Cubs turned to recently signed closer Craig Kimbrel (0-1) to protect a one-run lead in the ninth and the Pirates pounced.
Elias Diaz walked with one out, Kang followed with a double to right field that Chicago’s Willson Contreras couldn’t track down. Diaz beat the throw to the plate from Chicago second baseman Addison Russell on Adam Frazier’s fielders’ choice. Kang followed Diaz home when Dickerson’s fly ball to left field was deep enough to allow Kang to easily beat Kyle Schwarber’s heave.
The Pirates have won three straight and 12 of 17 to pull within one game of .500 (42-43). Richard Rodriguez (3-3) earned the win after pitching a scoreless ninth.
Starling Marte collected three hits for the Pirates. Melky Cabrera went 3 for 4 and delivered a two-run home run off Chicago starter Yu Darvish but was also thrown out at home by Contreras to end the eighth while trying to score on a single by Colin Moran.
Victor Caratini homered from both sides of the plate for the Cubs, including a go-ahead two-run shot in the seventh off Francisco Liriano to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead. Javy Baez added his 22nd home run for Chicago but the Cubs lost their fourth consecutive game.
Chicago missed a chance to pull even with Milwaukee for first in the jam-packed NL Central, where all five clubs are separated by 4 1/2 games heading into July 4.
No team has been able to take control of the division. Chicago looked like it was ready to in early June, but an 8-19 stretch brought the Cubs back to earth.
General manager Theo Epstein has threatened changes if the Cubs don’t get going, and Chicago called up outfield prospect Robel Garcia on Wednesday after he racked up 21 home runs in the minors following a five-year stint playing in Italy.
Garcia ended up striking out in the eighth in his first big-league at bat, but by then Caratini had already given the Cubs the lead.
Caratini’s fourth home run of the season and second of the game put Chicago starter Yu Darvish in line to win his first game since April 27. Darvish endured a stretch of 10 straight no-decisions — the longest by any starting pitcher in 42 years — before a loss to Atlanta last week. He worked crisply for most of his 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and no walks while throwing 62 of his 86 pitches for strikes.
Brandon Kintzler got the last out of the seventh and Pedro Strop survived an eventful eighth to set the stage for Kimbrel, who signed a three-year deal with the Cubs last month to shore up Chicago’s bullpen.
Yet Kimbrel was knocked around in mop-up duty in an 18-5 loss on Monday. He wasn’t any sharper with considerably more on the line two days later.
Pittsburgh starter Chris Archer left his previous start with an aching left hip but took his scheduled turn in the rotation. Archer gave up three runs on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (right elbow strain) plans to play catch in the near future and hasn’t ruled out a return to the mound this year. Taillon, who hasn’t pitched since May 1, said recent imaging on the elbow suggested he is healing. ... C Francisco Cervelli (concussion) has been cleared to practice but has not been cleared to put on the catcher’s gear and remains out indefinitely. RHP Keone Kela (right shoulder inflammation) threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Saturday. ... RF Gregory Polanco (strained left shoulder) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday.
Cubs: Jose Quintana (5-7, 4.12) will try to win consecutive starts for the first time since April in the series finale on Thursday. Quintana threw six shutout innings in a victory over Cincinnati last Saturday.
Pirates: Jordan Lyles (5-4, 3.71) takes a three-game losing streak into Thursday. Lyles is 3-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 career appearances against Chicago.