Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl delivers a pitch. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
CHICAGO -- Chad Kuhl was given the difficult assignment of pitching a spot start when teammate Jameson Taillon fell ill hours before he was supposed to take the mound against the Chicago Cubs.
Kuhl suddenly had to pitch on two days' rest. His teammates made sure his day got a little easier.
The Pittsburgh Pirates erupted for 10 runs in the first inning to back up Kuhl on the way to a 14-3 rout of the Cubs on Sunday to conclude the first half of the season.
"That's big for Chad, a couple days rest, to do what he did," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "That was big for us. You hate for anything like that to happen, but he stepped in and did a great job for us.
"We were able to score a lot of runs for him. If anything, it should've helped him breathe a little bit. Just hope Jamo is alright. It was a good win for us."
Kuhl learned around 9 a.m. that he might have to start in place of Taillon, who arrived at Wrigley Field experiencing intense flu-like symptoms. Taillon experienced the symptoms again during his warm-up, head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said, so the right-hander was officially scratched about a half-hour before the first pitch.
Taillon (5-2, 2.73 ERA) is listed as day to day. He is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five starts since he came off the disabled list June 12 after undergoing testicular cancer surgery on May 8. Taillon's illness is unrelated to the cancer, Tomczyk said.
Kuhl allowed one run and two hits in three innings. He most recently pitched Thursday, allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates went with Kuhl because Sunday was his day to throw on the side, and Gerrit Cole was unavailable because he threw a side session Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle said.
"I lifted yesterday, so I was a little sore. Nothing out of the ordinary," Kuhl said. "Other than that, felt fine."
McCutchen followed Francisco Cervelli's third career grand slam with his 17th home run to stretch the lead to 10 and knock Cubs starter Jon Lester out of the game with two outs in the first inning.
"It was awesome to go up there and have that confidence of 10 runs," Kuhl said. "It really picked us up."
Lester (5-6) allowed four earned runs and six hits in the shortest outing of his career. He walked three and struck out none, throwing 27 of his 53 pitches for strikes.
"It pretty much speaks for itself. It's embarrassing," Lester said.
The reigning World Series champion Cubs (43-45) needed to win to enter the All-Star break with a .500 record. A year ago, they were 53-35 at this point.
"I'm still very confident. I believe in our guys," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm eager to see us coming out of the break."
The Pirates sent 15 batters to the plate in the first. Jose Osuna delivered a two-run double, Jordy Mercer hit a two-run single and Josh Bell added an RBI single while the Cubs committed two errors.
It was the Pirates' highest-scoring inning since they put up 10 in the seventh against Colorado on May 17, 2009. Pittsburgh last scored 10 runs in a first inning on June 8, 1989, at Philadelphia.
"To be able to do that and to be able to do it against a guy like Lester is great for us," McCutchen said. "We didn't stop there in the first. We scored a few more runs, even late. It's good to go into the break on a high note like that."
The Pirates took two of three in the series to finish the first half of the season 42-47.
A.J. Schugel (1-0) got the victory after allowing a run in three innings.
The Pirates improved to 5-1 at Wrigley Field this season and lead the season series against the Cubs 7-5.
The Cubs' Victor Caratini doubled for his first major league hit in the fifth inning. He also had an RBI double in the ninth.
Mike Montgomery allowed two runs in three innings in relief of Lester, who gave up 10 runs in a game for the first time since July 22, 2012, against Toronto.
"If I had a reason, it would've been fixed out there," Lester said. "It's never a good time to have a bad start."
The Cubs chipped into the big lead with a run in the second and another in the fifth. But the Pirates added two runs in the fourth and another in the sixth. Josh Harrison hit his 10th home run in the ninth for Pittsburgh.
NOTES: Pirates OF Starling Marte was 4-for-13 with one home run and three RBIs entering Sunday on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. He has been on the assignment since July 4 while he serves an 80-game suspension for a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug. Marte is eligible to return July 18. Manager Clint Hurdle said he has talked with the team and Marte about his return. ... INF/OF Josh Harrison is the Pirates' All-Star, and RHP Wade Davis will represent the Cubs at the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Miami. ... The Cubs have yet to set their starting rotation for after the All-Star break. They're waiting to see how RHP Kyle Hendricks (hand tendinitis) does in a rehab outing Monday with Double-A Tennessee. He has been on the disabled list since June 5.