Nico Hoerner’s double sends streaking Cubs past Pirates 3-2

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CHICAGO — Nico Hoerner hit a tiebreaking double in the eighth inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 on for their season-high fifth straight win.

Hoerner finished with two hits and two RBIs. Rafael Ortega homered for Chicago, and Adrian Sampson pitched seven innings of two-run ball.

Seiya Suzuki set up Hoerner’s clutch hit when he reached on rookie shortstop Oneil Cruz‘s throwing error. Suzuki advanced on Ian Happ‘s groundout and then hustled home on Hoerner’s drive into the gap in right-center.

“He wants that moment probably more than anyone I’ve been around,” Cubs manager David Ross said of Hoerner. “Nice base hit for him there.”

Mychal Givens (6-2) worked the eighth for the win, and Scott Effross got three outs for his first save in three chances.

Josh VanMeter hit a tying RBI double for the Pirates in the fifth. Cruz singled home a run, and Yerry De Los Santos (0-2) got the loss.

Pittsburgh has dropped two straight and seven of nine overall.

Ortega’s fifth homer – a two-out drive to right against JT Brubaker in the third – gave Chicago a 2-1 lead. Ortega also singled in the first, stopping an 0-for-29 slump.

“It’s been fun to watch,” Sampson said. “We’re playing good baseball right now.”

Brubaker allowed eight hits, struck out four and walked two in six innings.

LAST STAND?

The Cubs are expected to be sellers at the Aug. 2 trade deadline, so the two-game set against Pittsburgh could be the last one in the home dugout at Wrigley Field for several players.

Happ, an All-Star outfielder, said he was doing his best to take it all in before Chicago hits the road. Ross added he wasn’t manipulating the lineup to give players a last go-round at the iconic neighborhood ballpark.

“I find out (about a trade) about five seconds before the player does,” he said.

The waiting seems to have taken a toll on All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, who got emotional talking about the leadup to the deadline.

“I’m just trying to appreciate everything and all the memories I have here,” he said. “Probably my last homestand.”

CELEBRITY STRETCH

Actor and Chicago native Bob Odenkirk, who plays the titular character in the TV series “Better Call Saul,” led the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch singalong.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: OF Bryan Reynolds (right oblique strain) was reinstated from the 10-day injured list. OF Jake Marisnick (turf toe) was placed on the 10-day IL on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh’s Bryse Wilson (1-5, 6.52 ERA) faces fellow right-hander Keegan Thompson (7-4, 3.43 ERA) on Tuesday afternoon in the series finale.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.