CHICAGO — The Pittsburgh Pirates celebrated Ryan Vogelsong’s 10 years of service time with an ovation for the right-hander and a post-game cake.

The rest of the night belonged to the Chicago Cubs.

Jordy Mercer struck out on the 11th pitch of his at-bat against Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth inning, sending Pittsburgh to a 6-5 loss on Wednesday and completing a series sweep by the majors’ best team.

“I wasn’t going down without a fight, that’s for sure,” Mercer said. “What do you got to lose, right? He throws the hardest ball ever, so just battle and hope for the best.”

Mercer finished with two hits and two RBIs for Pittsburgh (67-64), which closed out a 4-3 trip that began with a sweep in Milwaukee. It trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games for the second NL wild card.

Vogelsong (3-4) was charged with five runs and six hits in five-plus innings in his eighth start of the year. The 39-year-old righty broke into the majors in 2000 with San Francisco, but also played professionally in Japan.

“I never thought I’d be able to say I had 10 years of service in the major leagues,” he said.

Kris Bryant hit his 36th homer and Addison Russell drove in two runs, but it was the defense by the left side of Chicago’s All-Star infield that stole the show.

Andrew McCutchen’s bases-loaded walk trimmed Chicago’s lead to 5-2 with two outs in the seventh before Gregory Polanco hit a flare down the third-base line that looked like trouble for the Cubs.

Russell sprinted over from shortstop and made a terrific catch near the home bullpen, drawing a huge ovation from the crowd of 38,137 at Wrigley Field and several swear words from his incredulous teammates.

“The play by Russell down the line was fantastic,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “If that ball gets in the corner you get a couple more runs.”

Jason Hammel (14-7) pitched six innings of one-run ball as Chicago equaled the best August in franchise history with a 22-6 record, also accomplished in 1932. It was the Cubs’ first time with 22 wins in a month since it went 22-10 in September 1945.

Heading into the final stretch of the season, the Cubs (85-47) are rapidly closing in on their first division title since 2008. They begin September with the majors’ best record at a season-high 38 games over .500 and a whopping 15-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the NL Central.

“You never even could imagine that you would have this kind of a lead at this particular point in the season,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Pitching for the third straight day, Chapman worked a rocky ninth inning for his 32nd save in 35 chances.

Bryant went 2 for 4 and reached base three times while extending his hitting streak to 13 games. The second-year slugger is tied with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the NL lead in homers and tops the majors with 111 runs scored.

A brisk wind blowing in from left field was no match for Bryant, who drove an 0-1 pitch from Vogelsong into the bleachers in left in the first. It was Bryant’s 10th homer in August.

Bryant made a diving grab to rob Sean Rodriguez of an RBI single in the second. He went behind the bag to take a hit away from Josh Harrison in the third and reached into the stands to retire Josh Bell on a foul popup in the fourth.

“He just plays well wherever you put him on defense,” Maddon said. “He’s just a good baseball player.”

WORTH NOTING

The Pirates traded LHP Kyle Lobstein to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Zach Phillips. The 29-year-old Phillips was 9-3 with one save and a 4.45 ERA in 49 appearances for Triple-A Norfolk this season. He will be assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Following a day off, the Pirates begin a 10-game homestand with a weekend series against the Brewers. RHP Jameson Taillon (3-3, 3.39 ERA) takes on Milwaukee RHP Junior Guerra (7-3, 2.93 ERA) in the opener on Friday night.

Cubs: LHP Mike Montgomery (1-1, 3.50 ERA) gets the ball when Chicago hosts San Francisco in the opener of a four-game set on Thursday night. RHP Jeff Samardzija (11-9, 4.50 ERA), who played for the Cubs for seven years, pitches for the Giants.


Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap