Cubs top Pirates 2-1 to earn doubleheader split

- Jon Lester limited the Pittsburgh Pirates to five hits while picking up his first complete game of the season and the Chicago Cubs earned a doubleheader split with a 2-1 win on Tuesday night.

The Pirates took the first game 5-4 when Pedro Florimon scored on Starling Marte's sacrifice fly in the eighth, but they couldn't complete the sweep as the Cubs pulled back within four games of Pittsburgh for the top spot in the NL wild-card race.

Lester (10-10) walked one and struck out nine while picking up his 12th career complete game. David Ross and Javier Baez had two hits each for the Cubs.

J.A. Happ (9-8) had his five-game winning streak end. Happ pitched in and out of trouble, allowing two runs on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. Aramis Ramirez had two hits but Pittsburgh's rejiggered lineup mustered little against Lester.

Lester began the year as Chicago's de facto ace thanks to a $155-million contract he signed in the offseason. The left-hander has ceded his spot atop the rotation to the white-hot Jake Arrieta — whose 19 wins are tops in the majors — but Lester provided a needed reminder on why the Cubs made such a hefty investment.

Pittsburgh rested regulars Gregory Polanco, Pedro Alvarez and Jung Ho Kang against Lester, who took advantage by silencing the backups and watched Chicago's offense do just enough against the resurgent Happ.

The 32-year-old has been a revelation since being acquired from Seattle as an afterthought at the trade deadline. All Happ has done is help the Pirates survive in the hyper competitive NL Central while A.J. Burnett spent six weeks on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Happ came in unbeaten since Aug. 4 but wasn't quite as sharp.

Chicago took the lead in the top of the first on a run-scoring single by Anthony Rizzo. Dexter Fowler made it 2-0 with an RBI double in the fifth. The Cubs had a chance to break it open, loading the bases before Happ struck out Starlin Castro to avoid further damage. He exited with runners in scoring position and two outs in the sixth. Arquimedes Caminero came on to get out of the jam, but Lester already had all the support he needed.

Pittsburgh's best chance came in the seventh. Ramirez led off with a single and scored on a double play. Sean Rodriguez was hit by a pitch. With the crowd chanting "Les-ter! Les-ter!," the pitcher struck out Kang, with Ross pumping his fist in celebration.

FIRST GAME

Tied 4-4 in the eighth, Florimon entered as a pinch runner after Pedro Alvarez worked a leadoff walk against Justin Grimm (3-5). Florimon stole second and sprinted to third when the throw from catcher Miguel Montero rolled into center field.

Marte, playing for the first time since injuring his shoulder last Thursday, hit a sharp liner to left. Florimon flew Superman-style across home plate to easily beat Austin Jackson's throw as the Pirates momentarily moved five games ahead of the Cubs for the top NL wild-card spot and within two of the Cardinals.

Tony Watson (4-1) pitched a scoreless eighth. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 46th save, tying the club record Mike Williams set in 2002.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Arrieta goes for his major league-leading 20th win on Wednesday. Arrieta is 8-0 with a 0.46 ERA in his last eight starts and is 13-1 with a 1.00 ERA since June 21.

Pirates: Burnett (8-5, 3.14 ERA) makes his second start since returning from the disabled list with a strained right elbow. The 38-year-old, in the final season of his career, pitched five innings in a no decision against Milwaukee last Thursday.

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This story corrects the second paragraph to say Cubs are four games behind Pirates instead of five.

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