CHICAGO -- Ian Snell wiggled out of big-time trouble twice in the early innings yesterday.
As it turned out, the third time was the harm.
The Chicago Cubs strung together four hits and produced three runs in the fourth inning, and that was just enough to send the Pirates to their third consecutive loss, this one a 3-2 decision at Wrigley Field.
- Box score
- Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 1:05 p.m., Wrigley Field.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Tom Gorzelanny (1-1, 6.75) vs. RHP Jason Marquis (0-0, 5.23).
- Key matchup: Marquis against Jason Bay. The Pirates left fielder is .382 lifetime against him -- with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs and 9 RBIs in 34 at-bats. On the other hand, Bay lifetime at Wrigley is just a .204 hitter -- with seven home runs in 103 at-bats.
- Of note: The Cubs' Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto will be happy to see Gorzelanny. Against the left-hander, Lee is 6 for 10 lifetime with two doubles and a home run; Soto is 5 for 7.
"The one inning," manager John Russell said. "I thought he threw the ball pretty well. He kept us in the game. We battled. We're just falling short of getting the big hit right now."
That was the Cubs' problem in the second and third innings.
They wasted a leadoff double by Mark DeRosa in the second inning and Ryan Theriot's one-out triple in the third.
They did not waste Kosuke Fukudome's leadoff triple in the fourth. Fukudome lifted a high fly ball to deep center that barely eluded Nate McLouth's attempt at a good catch.
"The wind kind of picked up just before that," McLouth said. "I didn't have my stride set up to dive. At the last second, I kind of lunged, and it tipped off my glove."
Some people thought a fan had poured beer on McLouth during the play.
"I didn't even notice," McLouth said. "But it didn't impact the play."
Fukudome wound up at third, and the Cubs were poised for a big inning.
"I just wanted to get out of it with limited damage," Snell said.
That didn't go so well.
DeRosa dropped a single into center field on a 1-2 pitch to score Fukudome. Geovany Soto lined another 1-2 pitch into right-center field for a double that sent DeRosa to third. Reed Johnson's weak roller toward shortstop went for a hit that scored DeRosa, although Soto had to hold at second.
Pitcher Rich Hill, ignoring a bunt sign, swung and hit a ground ball to shortstop. That forced Johnson at second and moved Soto to third. Eric Patterson bounced into another fielder's choice, barely beating Freddy Sanchez's relay to first, and the Cubs had their three runs.
They were enough to make a winner of Hill for the first time this season.
The left-hander nearly was in manager Lou Piniella's doghouse after his 72-pitch, 38-ball, three-inning performance April 10 at PNC Park.
He was skipped in his next turn in the rotation, while this message from his superiors sunk in: Trust your stuff and throw the ball.
Yesterday, Hill started poorly, walking McLouth on four pitches to begin the game.
He got through five innings, however, throwing 45 strikes among his 81 pitches. He allowed three hits, three walks and a run.
"It was a step in the right direction," Piniella said.
The Pirates scored a run in the second when Jason Bay, 0 for 12 lifetime against Hill before that at-bat, reached first on an infield hit. He stole second and scored on Xavier Nady's single to left.
The Pirates scored again in the eighth when McLouth lifted a 2-2 pitch from Carlos Marmol over the left-center field wall for a leadoff home run to extend his hitting streak to 16 games.
"I hit it well," McLouth said, "but no way did I think it was going out. What it was was a well-hit fly ball.
"I'm just trying to go one pitch at a time," he said. "I'm just trying to get the best pitch I can handle. I know I'm not going to get a hit every time up, but I can have a good at-bat every time up -- or try to."
Two outs later, Bay walked. Nady singled him to second, bringing up slump-ridden Adam LaRoche, who batted sixth for the first time this season. Part of the reason for that was that the left-hander started for the Cubs.
"And we wanted to try to do something a little bit different at the top of the order," said Russell, whose team has scored only five runs in its past three games. "We need to get more things going early."
LaRoche fought Marmol through a pretty good at-bat before striking out on a inside breaking ball.
That deepened his offensive funk to four hits in 43 at-bats and left him 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
"I got jammed in Atlanta [the first week of the season] and then I was the sickest I've ever been in my life [in Los Angeles]," LaRoche said. "I can't win."
Neither can the Pirates at the moment.