Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Pirates 2

PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs' 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday gave them their first three-game sweep on the road since a four-game run in August of last season also at Pittsburgh.

How it happened: Alfonso Soriano's two-run home run in the eighth inning was the difference as the Cubs got the best of the contending Pirates. It looked like things might end badly when James Russell balked in the tying run in the seventh inning. Rookie Chris Rusin was solid, giving up one run on five hits over five innings. Carlos Marmol loaded the bases in the ninth inning but got out of the jam for the save.

What it means: With the Cubs basically running a starting-pitcher audition camp the rest of the way, pitchers are eager to make an impression before the winter arrives. Rusin helped himself with his ability to rebound from a tough outing last week against the Nationals, when he gave up five runs in just an inning. The left-hander has started three times in the major leagues and in two of them he allowed just one run over five innings.

Outside the box: In the midst of a serious slump during his first taste of major league action, Josh Vitters was able to make some noise Sunday. His home run in the fourth inning snapped an 0-for-27 dry spell. The last time he had a hit was on Aug. 21 at Milwaukee when he doubled. His only other home run came a day before that against the Brewers.

Off beat: Andrew Recker's first career home run didn’t go in the stands so there was no need to trade a bat or some signed baseballs to get the ball. The only problem was that it landed in a patch of ivy beyond center field that had no access. The Pirates provided a solution by sending in a stadium usher to get it between innings. The usher flipped the ball into the Cubs’ bullpen so the members of the relief corps could get Recker his keepsake.

Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Chris Volstad (2-10, 6.23 ERA) to the mound Monday at Houston in the opener of a three-game series. The Astros will counter with left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-7, 5.54) in the 7:05 p.m. start from Minute Maid Park.