CHICAGO -- Perhaps, the Pirates should petition to schedule more games against the Chicago Cubs.
Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00) vs. LHP Ted Lilly (1-3, 4.88).
Key matchup: Ohlendorf vs. Geovany Soto? Ohlendorf tossed seven innings of four-hit, shutout ball to beat the Cubs last season, but Soto is 2 for 3 with a double.
Of note: Andrew McCutchen on Friday became the first Pirate since Rennie Stennett went 7 for 7 with five runs -- in a 22-0 win against the Cubs at Wrigley Field Sept. 16, 1975 -- to collect five-plus hits and score five runs.
Without the Cubs, the Pirates would not be in third place in the National League Central today. They would not be 16-20 amid a season already rife with historic worsts and firsts. They would not be carrying a seven-game winning streak against the Cubs -- dating to last season -- into a series finale today where they attempt to complete their second consecutive sweep of a club with a payroll three times greater.
But why press their Cubs luck?
"You don't want to wake up a sleeping giant," Pirates manager John Russell cautioned.
Talk about awakenings. Struggling Aki Iwamura (2 for 43 at .046 in May), absent Ryan Church (injured the past week), under-reconstruction Jeff Clement and, in the end, Octavio Dotel provided relief in a 4-3 Pirates victory that marked their fifth in a row this season against sleep-walking Chicago, which has lost nine of its past 11 games.
They scored three runs in the first inning. It began with Iwamura reaching base, on a walk, for the first time in 22 plate appearances. Andy LaRoche followed with a walk, and Andrew McCutchen -- 2 for 3 the day after a career-high 5 for 5 -- singled home Iwamura. Church poked a double down the right-field line off Ryan Dempster (2-4) for a 3-0 Pirates lead.
As for Church, who returned from a seven-game absence after being plunked in the right wrist, Russell said: "It was a big hit. We missed him for a few days -- we feel it. He's done some very good things for us."
Starter Paul Maholm (3-3), after a 3 1/3-inning start his previous time out and a slight hands adjustment to his motion, walked none for the first time in his past 15 starts and scattered eight hits over six innings. He nearly escaped a nettlesome third, which started with back-to-back hits, but Aramis Ramirez laced a two-out, two-strike, two-run double into right-center field. Geovany Soto followed with a single to left, but Church easily threw out Ramirez at home, and the lead stayed at 3-2 thanks to the bullpen.
D.J. Carrasco exited after his seventh with an 0.79 ERA in his past 10 appearances, Joel Hanrahan the eighth with a 0.00 ERA in his past seven.
Clement, toiling to limit his hands movement in his swing, supplied an opposite-field home run off closer Carlos Marmol for a two-run cushion. It was Clement's first homer in the past 13 games.
Dotel eventually recorded his seventh save in nine opportunities, and it came with the usual drama. With one out, he walked rookie Starlin Castro on four pitches, then, after getting ahead, 0-2, allowed a run-scoring triple to Kosuke Fukudome that put the tying run at third.
After feeling he should have come back with a fastball to Fukudome, he did not make that mistake to Ryan Theriot, whom he struck out with 94 mph heat, and Marlon Byrd, whom he whiffed with a 93 mph fastball.