Christopher Morel hits RBI single in the 9th to give Cubs a 1-0 win over Pirates

CHICAGO (AP) — Christopher Morel singled in Cody Bellinger with one out in the ninth to give the Chicago Cubs a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

Bellinger got the winning rally started with a ground-rule double down the left-field line with one out off David Bednar. Morel then cracked a 3-2 pitch up the middle, and Bellinger narrowly beat Michael A. Taylor's throw to the plate on a play that withstood a video review.

“I knew it was close,” said Bellinger, who slid in and just avoided Joey Bart's tag. “I was glad, extremely happy when they said it was confirmed.”

Hector Neris (4-0) tossed a perfect ninth, striking out two, for the win.

“Our pitching staff today was the only reason why we had any chance of getting a win,” said Bellinger, who finished with two hits. “They all did a tremendous job to keep us in the game.”

Cubs starter Shota Imanaga tossed seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball in his third straight no-decision. The 30-year-old left-hander from Japan struck out seven and walked one as he threw 68 of 88 pitches for strikes.

Imanaga lowered his ERA to 0.84 through his first nine major league starts, the lowest mark though nine since earned run average started being tracked as a stat by baseball in 1913. He's won five of them without a loss and was dominant again on Saturday.

Imanaga's ERA beats out Los Angeles Dodger Fernando Valenzuela's 0.91 in 1981.

“To be honest, I'm not really too interested in my stats or any historic value,” Imanaga said through a translator. “But just knowing there are so many good pitchers that came before me and the fact that in the past there are plenty of guys who were able to do that is a good learning experience.”

Mark Leiter Jr. followed with a perfect eighth, striking out the side.

Pittsburgh’s Bailey Falter pitched scoreless, three-hit ball through 7 2/3 innings, the longest outing of his career. The 27-year-old left hander struck out two and walked two, throwing 55 of 83 pitches for strikes.

Falter enjoyed locking horns with Imanaga, even in in eventual loss.

“It was awesome," Falter said. "That guy is one of the best pitchers in the game right now and he’s pretty electric. It was good to battle with him.

"My job is to go out there, put up zeroes and get these guys into the dugout as quick as possible until my job is over.”

Colin Holderman relieved with two outs and two runners on in the eight. After walking pinch-hitter Michael Busch to load the bases, Holderman struck out Patrick Wisdom to end Chicago's threat.

Bednar (2-3) took the loss.

The Cubs traded left-handed reliever Richard Lovelady to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor-league lefty Jeff Belge before the game.

Lovelady, 28, pitched in seven game for the Cubs this season, going 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA before being designated for assignment on Tuesday. The 26-year-old Belge was at Double-A Montgomery of the Southern League and has never appeared in the majors.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: Manager Craig Counsell said 2B Nico Hoerner (left hamstring) is improving and could be ready to return in the next few days. … SS Dansby Swanson (right knee sprain) “is headed in a good direction,” Counsell said and could come off the IL this week. The two-time All-Star was eligible on Saturday. … LH Drew Smyly (right hip impingement) could be sent on a rehab assignment to High-A South Bend next week. … LHP Jordan Wicks (forearm strain) will throw another bullpen session, then likely go on a rehab assignment.

UP NEXT

Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (4-3, 3.93) faces Cubs RHP Jameson Taillon (3-1, 1.61) in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

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