Another failed attempt at .500 for Pirates

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CHICAGO -- It was a bit too brisk for a walk in the park yesterday, but the Chicago Cubs took one anyway courtesy of Pirates starter Phil Dumatrait.

They took a lot of walks, actually.

The Pirates' left-hander walked seven batters in 42/3 innings and that largesse led to four runs, just enough for the Cubs to hold off the Pirates, 4-3, at chilly Wrigley Field.

"I was terrible," Dumatrait said. "Today it's all me."

Well, the Pirates' offense, outside of Adam LaRoche and Freddy Sanchez, didn't do much, either, against Chicago starter Jason Marquis and three relievers.

On a day where the temperature hovered in the high 40s in blustery conditions, the Pirates ended a six-game trip 3-3 with their second loss in three games in Chicago.

"I felt like if I'd done my job, we'd have had a great chance to win this series," Dumatrait said.

  • Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
  • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
  • Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (2-4, 4.94) vs. LHP Manny Parra (1-2, 5.03).

The Pirates did succeed in cooling off Alfonso Soriano.

The Cubs' left fielder had seven hits, including four home runs, in the first two games of the series. Yesterday, he was 1 for 3 with a sacrifice line drive.

"We just tried to make good pitches," Pirates manager John Russell said.

It did seem, though, that the Pirates pitched Soriano more on the outside part of the plate -- or off the outside part of the plate -- than they did in the first two games.

The Pirates also kept Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez from hurting them. Those two were a combined 0 for 6 yesterday and a combined 0 for 22 in the series.

Still, the Pirates were unable for the fourth time in a week to climb from one game under .500 to the break-even point. Once more, they're two games under .500.

"But .500 isn't the goal," bench coach Gary Varsho said. "That's not a satisfactory place. For me, .500 is not acceptable. It should be better than that.

"Yes, you have to get to .500 first, but that's plateau one. Plateau two? I believe this team can get to five games over .500 and then we go from there. This club has a great feel for what can take place here. There's a nice presence in this clubhouse knowing we can do some things."

The Pirates, 1-8 against the Cubs, did get off to a good start yesterday.

Sanchez began the game with a double into the left-field corner on a 3-2 pitch. Two outs later, with Sanchez still on second base, LaRoche drove a 2-0 pitch into the left-center field bleachers.

It appeared the Pirates might be off to a good offensive performance against Marquis, who in his three previous starts allowed 26 hits and 14 runs in 16 innings. That wasn't to be, though, and by the time they scored again, they trailed, 4-2.

Dumatrait breezed through the first two innings.

"After that, I couldn't find the [strike] zone," he said. "My stuff was fine, but I was 2-0, 3-0 on pretty much every hitter after the second inning."

Especially in a 33-pitch third inning.

He walked Mark DeRosa on four pitches. He walked Reed Johnson on five pitches. Then he walked Marquis, who was trying to bunt, on five more pitches.

That brought up Soriano with the bases loaded and nobody out.

"You walk people against a team like this, they're going to make you pay," Dumatrait said.

He was able to limit the damage. Soriano smoked a line drive into center field that Nate McLouth caught. DeRosa scored on the play.

Ronny Cedeno followed with a run-scoring single on a 2-0 pitch, pulling the Cubs even, 2-2.

A leadoff walk to Kosuke Fukudome in the fourth inning helped the Cubs go ahead. After Dumatrait struck out Pirates nemesis Geovany Soto, DeRosa singled Fukudome to second. The Cubs pulled a double steal, although Ronny Paulino's throw to third appeared in time to get Fukudome. Doug Mientkiewicz couldn't handle the ball, though.

Fukudome then scored on Johnson's sacrifice fly to left.

With two outs in the fifth, Dumatrait walked Lee and Ramirez. Lee scored on Fukudome's single to left.

"I walked entirely too many guys," Dumatrait said. "No excuses -- I was terrible."

"I thought he had good stuff," Russell said. "He just couldn't find the plate. He couldn't quite locate like he wanted."

Dumatrait, who began the season in the bullpen, made 105 pitches, just more than half of them (53) balls.

"The only good thing to come out of this was that after I got to 100 pitches, I still felt strong," Dumatrait said.

Pirates relievers Marino Salas, John Grabow and Tyler Yates held the Cubs hitless for the final 31/3 innings, but all the Pirates could muster in the way of a comeback was LaRoche's run-scoring single in the sixth inning.

"We've come back so many times this year," Russell said. "This was one of those days we just couldn't do it."

First Published May 19, 2008 4:00 AM


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