CHICAGO (AP) — Joshua Palacios hit a three-run homer in a seven-run fourth inning and the Chicago Cubs' postseason drive remained stalled with their sixth loss in seven games, 13-7 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Connor Joe hit a two-run homer in the sixth as All-Star Justin Steele (16-5) lost his second straight start, allowing six runs and eight hits in three-plus innings.
Chicago (79-73), which has lost nine of 12, remained a half-game ahead of Miami (79-74) for the third NL wild card spot, with Cincinnati (79-75) another half-game back.
Ian Happ's third career grand slam, a drive off Mitch Keller (13-9) in a five-run fifth, cut the deficit to 8-6. Christopher Morel started the inning with his 24th homer, a 440-drive to left that sailed to Waveland Avenue.
Joe, who finished with three hits, homered off Mark Leiter Jr. Jared Triolo added a solo shot for Pittsburgh.
Keller, like Steele a first-time All Star in 2023, yielded seven runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Pirates beat the the Cubs for just the second time in 12 games this season.
Keller struck out six and with 204 became the third Pirates right-hander to reach 200. He is the Pirates winningest pitcher in a season since Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams both had 14 victories in 2018.
Four relievers allowed three hits in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.,
STRO' READY TO GO
Cubs All-Star RHP Marcus Stroman said before the game he'll gladly accept any bullpen role down the stretch.
Stroman was activated Sept. 15 after six weeks on the IL, then made a pair of scoreless relief appearances against Arizona. Those were his first bullpen outings since 2014 as a rookie with Toronto.
Stroman was 10-8 through 25 starts with the when he went on the IL with hip inflammation on Aug. 2. He was diagnosed with a right rib cartilage fracture on Aug. 16.
Cubs: RHP Nick Burdi (appendectomy) pitched an inning and allowed a run in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. … RHP Brandon Hughes (right knee inflammation) tossed a scoreless inning at Iowa on Tuesday night.
Pirates RHP Johan Oviedo (8-14, 4.27) faces Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-7, 3.77) on Thursday in the series finale.
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