The downhill slide continues
Chicago's Welington Castillo scores the go-ahead run ahead of the throw to Pirates catcher Michael McKenry in the eighth inning Saturday night at PNC Park.
Share with others:
Another large crowd witnessed another Pirates loss Saturday night, the latest in a rough five-week span as the end of the season nears and the time to earn a playoff spot runs out.
The game lacked the dysfunction on defense from a night earlier, but the Pirates lost, 4-3, to the Chicago Cubs in front of 35,661 at PNC Park, ensuring a series defeat.
The Pirates have lost six of their past eight games. The Los Angeles Dodgers won earlier Saturday and moved a game ahead of the Pirates in the National League wild-card race.
The Cubs broke a tie in the eighth, which began with a Welington Castillo single off Jason Grilli. Grilli retired the next two batters but walked Tony Campana to reach David DeJesus, who singled to right. Alex Presley's throw to the plate arrived on target, but not in time to get Castillo, who slid ahead of Michael McKenry's tag to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
"He slid around me," McKenry said. "When the ball hit the grass it kind of stopped. I tried to play it as deep as I could but he was already too far."
Grilli (1-5) was the loser. Castillo went 2 for 4, as did DeJesus. Campana went 2 for 3 and scored two runs.
The Pirates had tied the score in the seventh. Starlin Castro fielded Rod Barajas' grounder to short and threw it away, putting the tying run on second with two outs. Josh Harrison pinch-ran for Barajas and pinch-hitter Jeff Clement roped a single off the wall in right field, scoring Harrison and tying the score at 3-3.
"I was able to get the barrel to it," Clement said. "It was a splitter. It was up just enough to where I could get extension on it and square it up.
The single was Clement's first major league hit since 2010.
Jeff Samardzija pitched a complete game in what was his final outing of the season because of an innings limit. He allowed three runs, two earned, and struck out nine.
James McDonald recovered from his previous outing and pitched well, but exited the game with the Pirates trailing. McDonald finished 52/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits.
"Velocity was good, spin was good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The one thing that complicated things was leadoff hitters on base five out of six innings."
He had alternated good and poor outings in his past five starts, with his previous start falling on the bad side. He allowed eight runs, seven earned, on six hits, four of them home runs, in 22/3 innings Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Samardzija (9-13) opened the door for the Pirates in the first, but shut it for five innings after that. He worked with a fastball that reached 97 mph and a slider and sinker that crossed the plate in the mid-80s.
The Pirates forced Samardzija to pitch from behind out of the gate. Brock Holt singled and went to second on Starling Marte's sacrifice bunt. Samardzija hit Andrew McCutchen and walked Garrett Jones to load the bases for Pedro Alvarez, who singled to center to drive in two runs. Alvarez went 2 for 4.
"You look at the way we started [Saturday] after [Friday] night's game, that's encouraging," Hurdle said. "Then we weren't able to add much on the rest of the night."
Alfonso Soriano halved the lead in the second when he sent McDonald's first offering over the left-field wall for his 27th home run of the season. Castillo doubled, but McDonald got two ground outs to end the inning.
The Cubs continued to pressure McDonald in the third. Campana, batting ninth because Samardzija hit eighth, singled, and DeJesus' single put runners on first and third with none out. Luis Valbuena bounced a grounder up the middle that Clint Barmes fielded before stepping on second in stride and throwing to first for the double play, but Campana scored to tie the score.
McDonald then hit Anthony Rizzo in the back and home-plate umpire Scott Barry warned both benches.
Alvarez doubled to lead off the fourth, but found himself caught between second and third when Presley grounded back to Samardzija. Samardzija ran down Alvarez for the out, and Presley was stranded on first.
The Cubs took the lead in the fifth. Campana doubled, then stole third. Valbuena flied out to left, scoring Campana and giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
Jeff Locke starts today for the Pirates in an attempt to avoid a series sweep.
Games vs. +.5006
vs. WC contenders3
St. Louis Cardinals
Games vs. +.50010
vs. WC contenders4
Games vs. +.5009
vs. WC contenders3
Los Angeles Dodgers
Games vs. +.50014
vs. WC contenders4
Of note: The two NL wild-card teams will meet in a one-game playoff Oct. 5.
First Published September 9, 2012 12:00 am