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Chicago Cubs end the first half of the season with 6-5 win in Pittsburgh

Jul 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) celebrate after scoring against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) celebrate after scoring against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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They started off the season with the best record in the league and now found themselves in a stretch of games in which they were handed a loss. The first half of the season ended today and it feels good knowing that the Chicago Cubs were able to finish strong.

Final. 5. 4. 6. 9

Yesterday, it looked as if the Chicago Cubs were going to end their four-game losing streak when they jumped ahead of the Pirates in the first inning of the ballgame. But their recent struggles kept up with them, resulting in the North Siders dropping their fifth straight.

History nearly repeated itself today but finally, this lineup and bullpen managed to keep things in order by escaping Pittsburgh with a 6-5 victory. Veteran right-hander John Lackey (7-5, 3.70 ERA) started the afternoon but picked up a no-decision.

Lackey was tagged for five earned runs on seven hits, including two home runs while issuing two walks, and striking out nine batters in six innings of work.

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The Cubs (53-35) gave him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning of the ballgame thanks to first-time All-Star shortstop Addison Russell‘s two-run single that plated both Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo.

Zobrist and Rizzo will accompany Russell on a plane ride out to San Diego later on this evening as the festivities begin tomorrow starting with the Home Run Derby.

Lackey made it through the first frame without surrendering a run only to lose his lead in the second frame. Sean Rodriguez got things going for the Pirates (46-43) with a solo shot out to center field and would be followed up with an RBI double by catcher Eric Fryer.

John Jaso tallied the final run of the frame on an RBI single of his own. Willson Contreras recorded an RBI on a ground out with runners on second and third with no outs to tie things up moments later.

That is until Andrew McCutchen helped the Bucs reclaim the lead with his 14th home run of the season and his second in as many games. He tied things up yesterday with a line drive shot out to left.

Maddon’s other rookie, Albert Almora later launched a two-run homer out to left field — his second of that year that gave Chicago another lead, this time making it a one-run ballgame in the fourth.

Next: Are the Cubs an average team?

Pedro Strop entered the game in the seventh with runners on first and second and no outs. A dangerous situation that resulted in Strop blowing another save as McCutchen flied out to right fielder Jason Heyward, scoring Josh Bell to knot things up, again.

Kris Bryant knocked in Matt Szczur on a pitch that was sent out to left field in the eighth, opening the door for Hector Rondon to record another save. And that’s exactly what Rondon did, to our surprise, after blowing multiple saves over the course of the past month and a half.

Now it’s time for the entire group, including Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to sit back and relax before they return to Wrigley Field next Friday.

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