Marlon Byrd has been everything the Pittsburgh Pirates could have hoped.
The veteran outfielder hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning and rookie Gerrit Cole pitched seven superb innings to lead the Pirates to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh won for the fifth time in six games and kept pace in the National League Central race. The Pirates entered the day one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals, who hosted Seattle on Saturday night. The Pirates hold a 2 ½-game lead on the Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild card standings.
Byrd homered to the first row of seat in right-center field with one out in the seventh inning off James Russell (1-6) to put the Pirates ahead 2-1.
It was Byrd's 23rd home run of the season and second in 17 games since the Pirates acquired him on Aug. 27 from the New York Mets in a trade. He also is hitting .323 and has seven doubles.
The Pirates tied the score 1-1 in the sixth inning when Jose Tabata hit a one-out home run, his fifth homer of the season, off starter Scott Baker.
Cole surrendered a first-inning run and five hits as he won for the just the second time in his last eight home starts. He struck out seven and walked three.
The 23-year-old right-hander has been outstanding in his last six starts, going 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA with 35 strikeouts and nine walks.
Cole has had most of his struggles at home as he is 5-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 10 starts at PNC Park, compared to 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA in six road starts. However, he held the Cubs in check.
Tony Watson pitched the eighth and Mark Melancon worked the ninth to finish the five-hitter and register his 15th save in 17 chances.
Baker was good again in his second start with the Cubs since recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, allowing one run and three hits in six innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Last Sunday, in his first major-league outing since Sept. 22, 2011, with Minnesota, Baker pitched five scoreless innings against Milwaukee.
Chicago scored a run off Cole in the first but missed a chance for a bigger inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Nate Schierholtz doubled into the gap in right-center field to drive in Starlin Castro, who led off with a single. However, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out trying to score from first base.
NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez will not pitch again this season because of continuing pain in his left arm. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with forearm tightness, continued to feel pain Saturday, two days after pitching a five-inning simulated game. ... Pirates LF Starling Marte had six plate appearances in a simulated game, facing LHP Kris Johnson. Though Marte continues to feel pain in his bruised right hand, the Pirates are hopeful he may be able to return to the lineup as soon as Monday. ... OF Brian Bogusevic started in left field for Chicago in place of OF Junior Lake for the third time in four games. Bogusevic entered the day hitting .357 with three home runs in nine September games. ... The four-game series concludes Sunday with Cubs LHP Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05 ERA) facing Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.92).