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Cubs 8, Pirates 0: Swingin’ in the rain

The Cubs won the first game of the series in part thanks to a weird little rainstorm over PNC Park.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

LONDON — Hi everyone, I’m in London getting ready for the Cubs/Cardinals series this weekend. In the meantime, the season goes on and so, I’ll keep covering the games being played in Pittsburgh from here.

Remember last week? The first game of the Cubs/Pirates series at Wrigley Field last Tuesday was delayed by rain, then much of it was played in a steady rain. The Cubs won so all was well.

Maybe the Cubs are rainmakers. A very small but strong thunderstorm popped up right over PNC Park in the second inning of Monday’s game. They must have realized it wasn’t going to last long, because play was never stopped.

I mean, look at this!

Our friends at @CubsWeather got it right:

Anyway, the rain stopped just in time for a three-run Cubs rally in the top of the second inning and they held on for an 8-0 win over the host Pirates.

In that second inning, Cody Bellinger singled with one out and was forced at second by Christopher Morel. But then the Cubs put together a nice two-out rally. Yan Gomes followed with a single and Miles Mastrobuoni walked to load the bases.

Mike Tauchman — who’s been really good lately — singled in a pair [VIDEO].

Tauchman took second on the throw in, and so he was in scoring position for Nico Hoerner [VIDEO].

Drew Smyly looked like he might have enough pitches in him for six innings, but he got himself in trouble after retiring the first two batters in the fifth. A single and two walks loaded the bases, but Smyly got Carlos Santana to change his evil ways and pop up to end the inning. It wasn’t a great outing for Smyly, who threw only 52 strikes in 94 pitches and issued five walks, but it was good enough.

Michael Fulmer threw a scoreless sixth and now has not allowed an earned run in his last 10 outings since May 27. He might be working his way back into David Ross’ circle of trust.

The Cubs put two more on the board in the seventh off the Pirates bullpen. Nick Madrigal batted for Mastrobuoni and singled and stole second. Tauchman did it again! [VIDEO].

Tauchman went 3-for-5, scored twice and drove in three runs in this game. Whatever pixie dust has been sprinkled over him, let it stick around for a while.

The next two hitters were routine outs, but Tauchman took third on a ground out by Seiya Suzuki. Ian Happ was then intentionally passed, and he stole second.

Dansby Swanson then singled in Tauchman to make it 5-0 [VIDEO].

After Julian Merryweather threw a scoreless seventh, the Cubs piled it on in the eighth. With one out, Yan Gomes walked and Madrigal was hit by a pitch.

Tauchman then hit a ground ball, and... well, watch [VIDEO].

Madrigal took third on the play, where he scored on this ground ball by Hoerner [VIDEO].

Now it’s 7-0, and Seiya Suzuki, not wanting to be left out of the fun, doubled in run number eight [VIDEO].

Michael Rucker finished things off by throwing two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced, helping complete the five-hit shutout. It was the Cubs’ eighth shutout of 2023. The team threw only 11 shutouts all of last year.

Overall, the pitching could have been a bit better — Cubs hurlers issued six walks — but they got outs when they needed them. Meanwhile, the team went 5-for-14 with RISP and got contributions from just about everyone. Eight runs on 10 hits and four walks without a home run is very good production, even though they left 10 runners on base.

In the divisional race, the Reds defeated the Rockies for their ninth (!) win in a row and took over first place when the Brewers lost to the Diamondbacks. And the Cubs now trail the Pirates for third place in the N.L. Central by just half a game, and are 3½ games behind the first-place Reds (yes, that sounds weird, doesn’t it?).

The Cubs will go for two in a row in Pittsburgh Tuesday evening. Marcus Stroman will start for the Cubs and Johan Oviedo will go for the Pirates. Game time is again 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.