CHICAGO -- Pedro Alvarez and Anthony Rizzo went tit for tat Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. They both homered in the fifth inning. After Alvarez hit a three-run shot in the sixth, Rizzo raised him one.
Rizzo's first career grand slam helped give the Chicago Cubs a 13-9 win against the Pirates, a game in which the Pirates blew leads of 6-1 and 9-5. The Pirates, who won Saturday after losing seven games in a row, fell to 73-72.
"Obviously that's a hard one," Alvarez said. "It's tough to lose any game, especially a game like that."
The Pirates must win nine of their final 17 games to finish with 82 wins. The loss dropped the Pirates, who owned a share of first place in the National League Central Division as late as July 18 and in second place Aug. 21, to fourth place in the division, behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
The first of Rizzo's home runs came against starter Jeff Locke, who allowed two homers for the second consecutive start. Rizzo's second homer came against Jared Hughes, the second Pirates pitcher in a row Sunday that did not record an out.
Rick van den Hurk, who had appeared in one game for the Pirates this season, came on in relief to start the sixth inning with a 9-5 lead. He allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases before manager Clint Hurdle removed him for Hughes. Hurdle said he considered Jeff Karstens and Chris Leroux in addition to van den Hurk to start the inning, but wanted a sinker-baller who could pitch multiple innings.
Darwin Barney hit an RBI single before Rizzo took a 3-1 pitch to right-center field for his 14th of the season, clearing the bases and putting the Cubs ahead, 10-9. Hughes (2-2) has allowed two runs in two of his past three appearances spanning two-thirds of an inning.
Pirates pitchers allowed 15 hits, three of them home runs. Chicago's 13 runs fell one short of the most the Pirates had allowed this season: 14, also to the Cubs July 30.
Home runs shortened Locke's outing. Joe Mather hit the first pitch he saw to left-center field in the fifth, and Rizzo homered to center with a man on two batters later to cut the Pirates' lead to 6-4.
"It's tough to pitch when you get behind these guys," Locke said. "You've got to get ahead of guys. [Sunday that was] not something I did very well, getting ahead of anybody."
Alfonso Soriano singled after Rizzo, the fourth consecutive hit in the inning, and Hurdle removed Locke. He pitched 41/3 innings and allowed five runs and seven hits.
"Very quickly he left some balls up over the plate," Hurdle said. "Bad day to do it here."
Alvarez hit a long opposite-field home run in the three-run fifth, taking an outside fastball from Chris Volstad over the bleachers in left. He did it again in the sixth, when the Cubs brought in left-hander Jeff Beliveau to match up against him. Alvarez hit Beliveau's hanging curveball onto the street for his 29th this season.
"He can shrink some ballparks," Hurdle said. " He did it again [Sunday]. When we went out and we scored nine runs, you believe you can do better than getting the result we got."
Volstad gave up 10 hits on 100 pitches in 42/3 innings. He walked four and allowed six runs.
Rod Barajas hit his 10th home run of the season, a low, curving two-run shot down the left-field line in the second.
The Pirates had runners on first and third in the seventh, trailing by a run, but ran themselves out of the inning. Starling Marte tripled, his second triple in two days, and Garrett Jones walked with two outs. Jones broke for second and Cubs pitcher Jaye Chapman stepped off. Chapman did not throw to second to get Jones, but Marte broke for home and was caught down the third-base line to end the inning.
"I do believe if Starling could have shown a little more patience, that play could have worked for us," Hurdle said."
The Pirates have one more game against the Cubs tonight before returning home to face a Brewers team that just passed them in the standings.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter@BrinkPG. First Published September 17, 2012 4:15 AM