WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — José Quintana, Anthony Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs put on quite a show.
The grinning Little Leaguers soaked in every moment.
Quintana pitched seven crisp innings, Rizzo hit a two-run homer and the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 on Sunday night in the MLB Little League Classic.
Surrounded by smiling Little Leaguers wearing their uniforms in the stands at BB&T Ballpark, Quintana (11-7) allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked none. The left-hander improved to 7-0 in nine starts since his last loss June 22.
“His stuff’s the same, but it’s being utilized more regular, one curveball, one changeup. His command was spectacular,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “(His) confidence could not be higher. He’s been magnificent.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said it was the best he had ever seen from Quintana.
“Some really good stuff from him tonight,” he said. “Unfortunate for us.”
Nicholas Castellanos and Jason Heyward also connected as Chicago earned its second straight win since consecutive heartbreaking losses to the Phillies and Pirates.
The Cubs took two of three in the unusual weekend set and remain in a virtual tie with St. Louis for the top spot in the NL Central. It was the first road series win for Chicago since May 17-19 against Washington.
“For our team, it was kind of a blessing in disguise to get out of our routine on the road, to win this road series,” Rizzo said.
Starling Marté had three hits for Pittsburgh, including his 21st homer in the ninth against Craig Kimbrel.
Castellanos went deep in the first inning against Mitch Keller (1-2), and Heyward added another solo shot in the third. It was Castellanos’ sixth homer since coming over in a July 31 trade with Detroit.
The Cubs added two more in the fourth on Kyle Schwarber’s two-run single, and then put it away with three in the fifth.
Kris Bryant chased Keller with a run-scoring double, and Rizzo made it 7-0 when he greeted Chris Stratton with a drive off the scoreboard in left-center for his 23rd homer.
Last-place Pittsburgh dropped to 7-27 since the All-Star break. Keller was charged with six runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Kimbrel, who was activated from the 10-day injured list before the game, got the first two outs in the ninth in his first game since Aug. 3. He gave up Marté’s homer and hit Cole Tucker before striking out two.
Rizzo said the whole day, including interactions with Little Leaguers prior to the game at the airport and at the Little League complex, was special.
“It was fun,” he said. “The smiles on their faces. For me, I always wanted to come here but never got to come here. To be able to come and experience that … it was a really cool experience.”
Maddon grew up in Hazelton, about 70 miles east of Williamsport.
“I played Little League 1 hour, 12 minutes from here in Hazleton,” he said. “We always wanted to make it to Williamsport. It’s hard to do.”
Pirates pitcher Chris Archer also enjoyed the experience.
“Getting off the plane and seeing how excited the kids were was really special,” he said. “Even the team from Venezuela, they didn’t speak a whole lot of English, none really, but they wanted to engage.”
Cubs: Kimbrel was sidelined with right knee inflammation.
Pirates: Catcher Francisco Cervelli continues his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. He was placed on the injured list on May 26 with a concussion.
Cubs: Following an off day, LHP Cole Hamels (6-4, 3.69 ERA) starts Tuesday against San Francisco after allowing a season-high eight runs Aug. 14 at Philadelphia.
Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams (5-5, 5.25 ERA) looks for a win in a second straight start, against Washington on Monday.
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