PITTSBURGH -- It took two full cycles through the order Thursday night, and then it happened.
Gregory Polanco lined a leadoff single up the middle in the fifth inning. Starling Marte followed it with a single of his own. Then Andrew McCutchen doubled to the notch in left-center field to score both as the Pirates' imposing new top of the order delivered.
McCutchen raced to third, but his momentum pulled his foot off the bag and Luis Valbuena tagged him out. The Pirates challenged, but the call was upheld. But the sequence put the Pirates ahead, 4-0, on their way to a win to take three out of four games from the Chicago Cubs and close out the series.
Before the game manager Clint Hurdle, who inserted Polanco atop the order for the first time since his promotion, grinned: "Polanco, Marte, McCutchen? That looks good."
The Pirates improved to 32-34 with the win, and the Cubs dropped to 26-38.
Pirates starter Edinson Volquez struggled with his four-seam fastball command but worked his sinker, curveball and changeup to battle through seven shutout innings. It was his deepest outing since April 22 and marked the first time this season he pitched seven scoreless.
Volquez (4-5) finished giving up seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts before a rain delay halted the game with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
Volquez put two on in the third with a single and a walk, but got Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo to strike out swinging at curveballs to get out of the jam.
He put the Cubs down in order in the fourth and worked his way out of another jam in the fifth after issuing a leadoff walk, followed by a single.
He gave up a single and a double in the sixth, but again got a strikeout with his curveball and a grounder to end the inning.
Polanco helped to hold off a run in the fifth.
With catcher John Baker on third, Chris Coghlan hit a towering fly ball to right field, but Polanco's throw home was perfectly on line and Baker never attempted to tag up.
The Pirates strung together three hits off Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead.
Russell Martin drove in McCutchen with a ground-rule double and Jordy Mercer hit a sacrifice fly to score Ike Davis.
With two outs, the Cubs intentionally walked Clint Barmes to get to Volquez, who struck out.
The Pirates had two other opportunities to score.
They stranded Martin in the second inning after he stroked a one-out double to the warning track.
Polanco, batting leadoff for the first time since arriving in the major leagues Tuesday, nearly drove in Barmes with a sacrifice fly in the third, but the ball was fairly shallow and right fielder Nate Schierholtz nailed Barmes at the plate.
The Pirates will send left-hander Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.11 ERA) to the mound Friday night to open a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami.
Right-hander Charlie Morton (3-7, 3.14 ERA) will take the mound Saturday, but the Pirates have yet to announce who will start Sunday in place of Francisco Liriano, who went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.
(c)2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services