CHICAGO -- The Pirates got the start they wanted when A.J. Burnett pitched well in his return from the disabled list.
The ending, however, left a sour taste.
Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly scored Anthony Rizzo in the 11th inning and gave the Cubs a 4-3 walk-off victory Sunday against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
The loss sent the Pirates (53-34) into a tie with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central Division after the Cubs (38-48) took two of three games in the weekend series.
Rizzo started the inning with a leadoff single to left field off Pirates reliever Bryan Morris, and Alfonso Soriano followed with a single to right that put runners on first and second with no outs.
Russell Martin's first error of the season -- an off-line throw that ended up in the outfield while trying to pick off Rizzo at second -- moved the runners up 90 feet.
"I lost grip coming up on the transfer," Martin said. "Sometimes you can get a grip as you're going up, but it just took off."
It was the third loss of the year for Morris, who gave up four hits in 11/3 innings. He entered the game with a 2.61 ERA.
"I'm going to tip my hat to Rizzo," Morris said. "He never goes the other way, and he went the other way. The ball that Soriano hit, it wasn't hard. It fell in. And the ball that ended the game wasn't a hard hit ball. That's baseball."
It was the third consecutive Sunday game that went into extra innings. The Pirates beat the Los Angeles Angels, 10-9, June 23 in 10 innings and beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-1, June 30 in 14 innings.
The late-game drama overshadowed Burnett's first start since June 8, missing almost a month with a sore right calf. He fought off early rust and pieced together a decent outing, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three.
"I don't think I hit a spot in the first inning," Burnett said. "But I had a lot of movement on my two-seamer. Each inning I went out there I felt more in a groove, the more I got out there and the more I threw."
He would have pitched into the sixth, having thrown just 66 pitches, but the Pirates had runners on first and second with Burnett's spot in the batting order. Pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez struck out swinging to end the inning.
Even had Burnett stayed in the game, he likely would have faced only one more batter -- Soriano -- as he was on a 75-pitch limit. Burnett wished he had been more efficient, knowing he was on a limited number of pitches.
"I don't want to go five," Burnett said. "I knew I was on a pitch count and all, but things could have been different. I left some balls over to [Starlin] Castro that he hit pretty well, right in his wheelhouse."
For the second time this season, a rosin bag exploded in Burnett's hands in a game, causing a brief delay in action. It first happened opening day -- April Fool's Day -- when the Pirates played host to the Cubs.
"Same team, different place," he said. "It's unbelievable. Maybe I'm too strong."
Chicago appeared to be on the verge of victory when closer Kevin Gregg had Starling Marte at a two-strike count with two outs in the ninth. But Marte gave the Pirates life with a home run, his ninth of the season, to tie the score, 2-2.
Just two innings earlier, Scott Hairston put the Cubs ahead with a pinch-hit home run off of reliever Tony Watson. Hairston smoked a 2-1 sinker from Watson into the batter's eye beyond the center-field wall for his eighth home run of the season and second of this series.
Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, who rejoined the rotation Sunday after Chicago traded starter Scott Feldman last week, allowed one earned run on three hits in four innings.
The Cubs have the second-best group of hitting pitchers in the National League, and Villanueva showed why in the third. He sparked a rally for the Cubs, who grabbed an early lead.
Villanueva hit a leadoff single, and a Castro double to right-center field gave the Cubs runners on second and third with no outs. Villanueva scored on the next play, when Rizzo hit a dribbler to first base that Garrett Jones couldn't corral.
The Cubs pitchers entered the game second in the NL with a .170 batting average. But they lead the majors in runs scored (15) and RBIs (22).
Jose Tabata tied the score in the fifth with an RBI double off the left-field wall, scoring Marte to make it 2-2. Tabata went 2 for 3 with two doubles, an RBI, a run and two walks.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 7, 2013 10:15 PM