CHICAGO -- After the Pirates turned back Chicago, 7-6, yesterday, one question had to be asked.
Which is more amazing -- Alfonso Soriano's weekend or Nate McLouth's season?
"Apples and oranges," McLouth said.
Probably. But both are sweet.
McLouth added to his impressive list of positive contributions with a two-run home run off right-hander Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning that produced the decisive runs in the Pirates' first win in eight games against the Cubs this season.
That gave McLouth, a .312 hitter, 12 home runs, 14 doubles, 36 RBIs and 36 runs scored.
"And he seems to do it when it counts," teammate Jason Bay said. "There's not much else to say. He's outstanding. He's probably the best feel-good story of the year."
Soriano, meanwhile, had five hits, including two home runs for the second consecutive afternoon for the Cubs. In the past two games, he has seven hits and seven RBIs.
- Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Phil Dumatrait (1-1, 3.96) vs. RHP Jason Marquis (1-3, 5.26).
Key matchup: Jason Bay vs. Marquis. Bay lifetime against Marquis is 14 for 37 with four home runs and nine RBIs. However, the past three seasons Marquis has gotten the better of Bay. Beginning with the 2006 season, Bay is just 4 for 18 against Marquis.
- Of note: Marquis, who beat the Pirates April 19 for his only win, has allowed 26 hits, 7 walks and 14 earned runs in his past three starts.
"Take a bow," Doug Mientkiewicz said. "The game's not that easy."
"It's beyond explanation," Pirates pitching coach Jeff Andrews said. "You could throw him fastballs in batting practice and he wouldn't do what he's doing."
The Pirates insist they're pitching Soriano every which way, but there might be something they haven't tried.
"Roll it up there," Andrews said.
The Pirates, who had lost 10 consecutive games to the Cubs dating to September, took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh. However, Soriano homered off Tyler Yates to tie it, taking away a win from Zach Duke.
The score remained 5-5 entering the ninth. With one out, Freddy Sanchez singled behind second base for his third hit. Up stepped McLouth, who until the at-bat had hit the only home run Marmol had allowed this season April 18.
"He has as electric stuff as anybody," McLouth said. "You don't try to do too much against him -- just try to put it in play."
McLouth did better than that. He drove a 1-0 fastball into the home run basket in front of the right-field seats, giving the Pirates the lead with his third hit of the day and earning more respect from his teammates.
"He's done everything he can to help this team win," Mientkiewicz said. "He's a gamer. He's everything you could possibly fathom in a teammate. There aren't a lot of guys I'd pay to see play. He's one of them."
There still was the matter of the bottom of the ninth, which included Soriano being up third.
Matt Capps ensured Soriano couldn't win the game by striking out Reed Johnson and getting Mike Fontenot on a fly to right. That brought up Soriano with nobody on -- a huge relief for the Pirates. Capps quickly got ahead 0-2.
He lined the 0-2 up-and-away fastball, however, into left-center field for a double.
"He's a good hitter anyway," Capps said, "but he's just in one of those zones guys get into."
Capps fought back from 3-0 against Ryan Theriot to go 3-2 before Theriot lined a run-scoring single down the right-field line. The drama ended one pitch later. Derrek Lee drove a pitch fairly deep to right-center field for the final out.
"We're capable of beating them," Duke said. "I'm glad we proved it."
The Pirates put themselves in position to win with a three-run fifth inning against Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, who seemed to come unglued that inning after breaking a bat over his knee in the bottom of the fourth.
Zambrano was frustrated after having struck out against Duke.
Manager Lou Piniella didn't see the point.
"I don't see a need to break a bat over your knee when you have a 4-2 lead," the Cubs manager said.
Moments later, Zambrano walked Duke on four pitches to begin the fifth. Sanchez singled. McLouth singled to drive in Duke. Bay walked on a 3-2 pitch. And when Adam LaRoche lined a 2-0 pitch into center field for run-scoring single, Zambrano was done.
"He seemed to lose a little focus there," Pirates manager John Russell said.
First Published May 18, 2008 4:00 AM