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the Chicago Cubs‘ offense had run out of bats with the two-time defending National League Central Division champions on the verge of falling out of first place , the Cubs showed their sticks still have some life.A 7-6, extra-inning victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday capped by Albert Almora, Jr.’s two-out single in the 10th inning allowed the Cubs to preserve their half-game margin for the divisional lead. The Cubs will attempt to move closer to their third straight Central crown when they wrap up their four-game series against the Pirates on Thursday.The Cubs also clinched a playoff berth Wednesday.Article continues below ...The seven-run explosion arrived after the Cubs had struggled to score runs against the Pirates. After dropping the first two games of the series when the Cubs managed only two runs, Chicago gave its pitching staff some run support and pulled out the win after the bullpen blew a 6-1 lead.“There’s no pressure, no panic,” Almora said in a postgame televised interview.Now, they’ll look to continue the trend Thursday.“If we could just get on the board early, that would be very helpful,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters Wednesday.“If we get a chance to get on (Pirates) starters early, we need to do that because they seem to get better games in progress.”With a win Thursday, the Cubs will earn a series split and create a bit more distance between themselves and the idle second-place Milwaukee Brewers, who clinched their first playoff berth since 2011 on Wednesday. Milwaukee finished off a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 2-1 victory Wednesday.The Cubs hope to get third baseman Kris Bryant back in the lineup after Bryant missed Wednesday’s game with a sore wrist. Bryant left Tuesday night’s game after being hit by a pitch and sustaining a wrist contusion. Maddon told reporters that the swelling wasn’t as bad as expected, but that it was enough to keep Bryant from playing.Jon Lester (17-6, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound hoping to give the Cubs some momentum heading into another tough test this weekend against the Cardinals. Lester has won three of his four September starts and has allowed five earned runs in the four outings. Lester is 8-6 with 3.38 ERA in 17 career starts against the Pirates, including 3-1, 3.72 in five outings this season.Trevor Williams (14-9 Glen Perkins Jersey , 3.04) will take the mound for the Pirates. Williams has also been impressive throughout September and has won three of his four starts with a no-decision. Williams has not allowed an earned run in three of his four starts and has struck out seven in each of his past two outings. Williams is 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA in seven career outings (five starts) against the Cubs, including 1-1, 1.38 in two turns this season.Williams has been among the Pirates’ most effective performers in the second half but has done so while not gaining much notoriety for his efforts. While he isn’t flashy or doesn’t overpower hitters with his approach, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Williams is one to simply get the job done.“It’s pitchability, it’s pitch execution,” Hurdle told reporters earlier this month, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s hitting spots. He’s throwing his fastball where he wants. He’s changing speeds. And it’s really hard to hit. He’s getting it done the old-fashioned way. He’s flat-out pitching.” NEW YORK (AP) — Mets left fielder Dominic Smith readily took the blame for plowing into shortstop Amed Rosario on the potential inning-ending play in the 13th inning that ended up costing his team the game.Smith, a highly touted prospect who has been envisioned as the Mets’ first-baseman of the future, was positioned in deep left field after a double-switch an inning earlier when San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford lifted a lazy popup with runners on first and third and two outs.Rosario, who earlier in the game had dropped a routine foul ball, ranged into shallow left field, waved off Smith and was in position for a routine catch when Smith came charging in and barged into him.The ball ticked off Rosario’s glove and fell to the ground, and Andrew McCutchen scored on the botched play that resulted in an error for Smith and gave the Giants the tiebreaking run in a 2-1 win over New York.“It was hit high and I was playing deep. So you don’t want to call it too early,” said Smith, who’s logged 59 1/3 innings in left field – all this season. “So when I finally noticed that he was there I tried to call it late, I called it way too late. That’s definitely on me.”McCutchen was already prepared to head back out for defense when he saw the ball drop and made sure to step on home plate quickly.“Laughed all the way to the dugout Harmon Killebrew Jersey ,” he said. “Everybody’s eyes were about as big as that big-eyed emoji. It was pretty crazy. Everyone was pretty stunned, but everyone was going to be stunned when something like that happens.”The Giants ended their four-game losing streak. Derek Law (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.Tyler Bashlor (0-2) gave up a leadoff single in the 13th to Chase d’Arnaud, who advanced to third after an errant pickoff throw and a wild pitch. After McCutchen walked, Joe Panik fouled out and d’Arnaud was thrown out at the plate on a grounder. Crawford followed with the high pop.Mets starter Zack Wheeler struck out 10 in seven innings, allowing one run and five hits. The Giants took Wheeler with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft and later traded him to New York for Carlos Beltran.Wheeler is 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA since July 14. This was his first double-digit strikeout game since 2014 — he missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons after Tommy John surgery.The Mets righty had a 1-0 lead heading into the sixth when Alen Hanson’s blooper to shallow left field beat a shifted Rosario, who was playing more toward second base.“When a ball gets hit and you don’t get an out from it, it’s kind of frustrating,” Wheeler said.Giants starter Derek Holland gave up one run and four hits in five innings.TRAINER’S ROOMGiants: Law was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento before the game. … RHP Dereck Rodriguez (right hamstring) is scheduled to be activated Friday and start the opener of a three-game set against Texas. The 25-year-old rookie is 5-0 in his last 11 starts. Rodriguez injured himself during the bench-clearing brawl between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. … RHP Jeff Samardzija (right shoulder tightness) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday.Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo was placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 17. Nimmo missed his last three games after injuring his left index finger while swinging the bat in a game at Philadelphia.WAITING GAMEMets are still taking it day-by-day with David Wright’s attempt to play in the majors for the first time since May 27, 2016.The New York captain, who’s gone through various surgeries to alleviate his spinal stenosis condition, has been playing in minor league rehabilitation games with Class A St. Lucie.Wright, who returned to action Aug. 12, is 2 for 17 in six minor league games, with both hits coming Sunday.“He’s been out for quite a long time, so seeing almost on a daily basis how his body reacts and each game presents different challenges whether he has to dive Paul Molitor Jersey , how many plays how much time he spends running the bases,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said.Defensively, Wright has been held to five innings in each of the games.A player on a rehab assignment can only be assigned to a minor league team for 20 days. Wright’s window will be up Aug. 31. St. Lucie’s season ends Sept. 2, and if Wright is still not ready to return to the Mets, he could agree to perhaps join the organization’s Double-A or Triple-A affiliate.“We’ll see how he looks in a couple weeks when we’re at the end of this time period,” Ricco said. “Right now, we’re kind of taking it day to day.”UP NEXTGiants: RHP Chris Stratton (8-5, 5.52 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to start the second game of the series. Stratton lasted just three innings in his last start, Aug. 3 at Arizona, in which he gave up six runs and 10 hits.Mets: LHP Steven Matz (5-10, 4.60) makes his second career start against San Francisco. He was on the mound for just two innings in a loss last Thursday at Philadelphia. Matz gave up six runs, four earned, and five hits.

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