CHICAGO (AP) — Charlie Morton hung a curveball to the wrong batter at the wrong time, and it proved costly for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morton yielded a home run to Starlin Castro for the third time this season, a three-run shot that sent the Chicago Cubs to a 6-3 victory on Friday.
Jordy Mercer hit a three-run shot for the Pirates, who have lost four of five since a four-game winning streak. Ike Davis added two hits.
Pittsburgh rookie Gregory Polanco opened the game with a single to center, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He is the first NL player to begin his career with such a streak since Juan Pierre's 16-game run for Colorado in 2000.
Morton retired six in a row before pitcher Edwin Jackson's one-out single in the third started a string of five consecutive batters reaching safely. Anthony Rizzo lined a two-run double into the right-field corner before Castro drove an 0-2 curveball over the wall in left for his 11th homer, moving past his total from all of last year.
"I mean, you want to bury (the 0-2 pitch). We've seen him hit some breaking balls that stayed in the zone before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He got the barrel on that one."
Morton jerked his head down in disgust when Castro connected, and then turned around to see where the ball was going. Castro's 10th career homer against the Pirates gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
"I could have gotten the ball down a little bit more," Morton said. "I don't think it was a bad pitch. It was a bad pitch to him in that situation."
The six runs in six innings were a season high for Morton, who had won each of his last three starts and was 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous five outings.
Chris Coghlan also had a solo homer as the Cubs opened a 10-game homestand with their fourth win in five games. Last-place Chicago also improved to 18-13 since May 17 for the best record in the NL in that stretch.
"Everything in this game is contagious, whether it's positive, negative, hitting, defense, pitching," Coghlan said. "I think we're having more team at-bats."