Lester's no-hit bid ends on Pence's 2-out homer in 7th

It gets easier. Eighteen of the Pirates' next 21 games are against the Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds. The 26-year-old lasted 4 1/3 innings last time out against Atlanta, allowing three runs and five hits en route to the loss.

Atlanta Braves' Matt Kemp slides safely past San Diego Padres catcher Hecter Sanchez, right, to score on an Anthony Recker two run line drive single to right field during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Atlanta. Samardzija made it through three more before being lifted, and the lineup gave him a lead. He then worked around Trevor Brown's one-out double in the eighth. After Antonio Bastardo threw a wild pitch, balked and allowed an RBI double, the Cubs had a 5-1 lead.

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"At that point in time it's not like it was the worst thing in the world", Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said of the feeling as they left town after that series.

Russell hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, and three relievers combined for five ideal innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

After the first inning - which took about 45 minutes to complete - the pace of the game picked up. Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong entered the game with some impressive reverse splits, holding right-handed batters to.184/.250/.359 this season, and just three home runs allowed.

In the seventh, we got classic Bruce Bochy.

The Giants had a 4-3 lead as the pens took over. Bryant also singled and scored in the fourth inning, and his diving stop in the second inning prevented a run.

He ended that skid Thursday with a single that delivered the winning run in the Chicago Cubs' 5-4 win. Strickland was pulled after walking Kris Bryant. We come to play every day and we come to get better every day.

Working from a windup, unusual for a reliever, Edwards struck out Pence on a 97 mile-per-hour fastball and got Crawford and Panik to hit routine ground balls for his first major-league save. The Nationals will head to NY to take on the Mets, who are just one and a half games out of the second wild card spot in the NL, while the Cardinals will continue their road trip with a night game in Cincinnati against the Reds.

The victory not only gave the Cubs their third straight win, but it also enabled them to make a bit of history to boot.

"[Fowler] set the tone", Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs (86-47) extended their National League Central lead to 15-1/2 games.

Cubs: RHP John Lackey (shoulder) came out fine after a bullpen session and will start Sunday.

At the plate: Pence's homer went an estimated 419 feet. But they were mostly silent the rest of the evening.

Russell sprinted over from shortstop and made a terrific catch near the home bullpen, drawing a huge ovation from the crowd of 38,137 at Wrigley Field and several swear words from his incredulous teammates.

Meanwhile, the Cubs keep cruising. They are in a pivotal series here with the Cubs in what could be a confidence boosting victory here for the Giants but they don't have a great matchup on the mound as they will send Albert Suarez to the hill as he will go up against Jon Lester who continues to be one of the best in the NL.

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