The Pirates' four-game winning streak came to an end Friday, as did their latest brief run atop the National League Central. But the Bucs aren't getting too caught up just yet in how the standings are shaking out.
"We've got to take care of our own business first and what happens after that next. I feel like we've been doing that so far this year," infielder Jordy Mercer said. "We've been saying that not one game is bigger than the next, and we've been using that approach all year and it's been working. We've been playing well at home, we're comfortable here, we're relaxed and we can take a deep breath and take a step back and play our game."
The Cardinals' walk-off win over the Mariners on Friday night pushed Pittsburgh a full game back in baseball's closest division race. But the Pirates, seeking their first postseason appearance since 1992, are still 2 1/2 games ahead of the Reds for the top NL Wild Card spot.
The Pirates will look to gain some more ground Saturday night against the Cubs at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh will send rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole to the mound Saturday to face Cubs right-hander Scott Baker. Cole is coming off the best start of his young Major League career against the Rangers on Monday, when he tossed seven scoreless innings on three hits and two walks while striking out nine.
"They're a good team and they've been playing good baseball all year, and playing close games all year," Cubs outfielder Brian Bogusevic said of the Pirates. "They're never out of it and they're never going to lay down."
Baker, meanwhile, is making his second start since coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He made a strong return to the mound Sunday against the Brewers, holding them to two hits over five shutout innings.
Baker was on a 75-pitch limit Sunday but threw only 55, 39 for strikes. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Baker will be on a 75-85 pitch limit Saturday.
"We're not going to push the envelope too much on that," Sveum said.
Cubs: Baez, Hendricks win Minor League awards
Shortstop prospect Javier Baez and right-hander Kyle Hendricks were named the Cubs' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The duo will be honored during a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field on Sept. 21.
Baez, ranked by MLB.com as the Cubs' No. 1 prospect, combined to hit .282 with 34 doubles, four triples, 37 home runs and 111 RBIs in 130 games split between Class A Dayton and Double-A Tennessee. In his second full professional season, the 20-year-old led the Minors in RBIs and extra-base hits while ranking second in homers.
Hendricks went a combined 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA over 27 starts with Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He struck out 128 batters and walked 34 over 166 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .229 average. The 23-year-old was acquired from the Rangers in July 2012.
• The Cubs have gone 20-17 on the road since June 25, and Friday night marked their 34th win on the road this season, 11 more than their total from last year.
Pirates: Wandy waiting; Marte not hitting
The Pirates are awaiting word from Dr. James Andrews on the status of left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, out since June 6 with left forearm tightness. Rodriguez threw 67 pitches in a five-inning simulated game Thursday, and manager Clint Hurdle said the club wanted to see how his arm responded before activating him from the disabled list.
Left fielder Starling Marte faced Rodriguez during that simulated game, his first time against live pitching since being placed on the DL on Aug. 19 with a bruised right hand. Marte has been used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, but he admitted he still feels some pain when swinging the bat. Hurdle said he'll need to swing pain-free in live batting practice before returning to his spot atop the Pirates' lineup.
• The Pirates announced on Friday that a limited number of tickets for possible NL Wild Card and Division Series games at PNC Park will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. Fans can purchase a maximum of four tickets per person for the one possible Wild Card game and three Division Series contests.
• Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen has gone 25-for-60 (.417) with seven doubles, a home run and eight RBIs over his past 17 home games.
• The Cubs are 42-29 this season when scoring more than three runs and 34-11 when scoring at least five runs. They're just 10-61 when allowing four or more runs.