Pirates 6, Cubs 1
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs picked a bad night to run into a pitcher who almost always gives them problems.
Tom Gorzelanny allowed one run over seven effective innings and Jack Wilson homered while driving in three runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Chicago 6-1 on Friday night, the slumping Cubs' fourth loss in five games.
Gorzelanny (14-7) has been tough on the Cubs before, giving up two earned runs in 22 innings over three career starts, an 0.82 ERA. But this one especially hurt the Cubs, who couldn't bounce back from a 7-4 loss Thursday in which the Dodgers scored four runs in the ninth inning against closer Ryan Dempster.
"Right now, every game counts. We've got 22 games left," the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano said. "We are tied for first place, so hopefully we'll play better tomorrow."
Chicago, beginning a closing stretch in which it plays 16 of the final 23 away from Wrigley Field, remained tied with Milwaukee for the NL Central lead after the Brewers lost at Cincinnati 11-4. St. Louis, playing at Arizona on Friday night, was a half-game back.
"I don't know if it was the slump of the team or if Gorzelanny did good," said Soriano, who went 0-for-5 a day after homering twice.
The Cubs started the road trip as the only division team with a winning record on the road, 33-32, but couldn't do much as Gorzelanny limited them to six hits, striking out three and walking two. The Cubs didn't score until they were down 6-0 in the seventh, when Geovany Soto doubled and scored on pinch-hitter Ronny Cedeno's RBI single.
Gorzelanny kept up a strong run of late-season pitching by winning for the fifth time in six decisions. His 14 victories are the most by a Pittsburgh left-hander since Denny Neagle was 14-6 in 1996.
"Those are good numbers," said Gorzelanny, who had only two career victories before this season. "I'm trying to add on every time I go out there and finish the season right."
No doubt former Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield wishes he had seen more of this before being fired Friday morning following six-plus seasons: excellent starting pitching and timely hitting, with Pittsburgh opening a 3-0 lead by the second inning, and speed creating scoring.
Nyjer Morgan, a September callup who is hitting .300, started the game with a bloop double off Rich Hill (8-8) and scored a batter later on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice fly. Steve Pearce, another prospect playing in Pittsburgh for the first time, singled and advanced on second baseman Mark DeRosa's throwing error an inning later. Ronny Paulino followed with an RBI single and Wilson had a run-scoring double.
"He [Morgan] hit the ball 80 feet and he's standing on second base," manger Jim Tracy said. "When you can run like he can, that puts pressure on the defense."
Wilson followed Paulino's walk in the sixth with his ninth homer, a drive into the left-field bleachers. Wilson went 3-for-4 and has 14 hits in 20 at-bats (.700) over four games to bump his average to .288.
"It's just like when you go into a bad slump. You don't always know why you're doing it but you hope to keep it going," Wilson said.
Chicago threatened in the eighth by loading the bases against relievers Shawn Chacon and Damaso Marte. Soto flied out to end the threat after barely missing a grand slam on a long drive that strayed a few feet wide of the left-field foul pole.
"We didn't get 'em in," said manager Lou Piniella, whose team has been held to 10 runs in its last four losses. "I talked about the fact we'd better start hitting the ball. We'll find out. It's hard to win with one run -- sooner or later, we've got to start hitting the ball."
The Cubs had won Hill's last four starts, but the left-hander was lifted after giving up six runs and nine hits over six innings.
"I got away from the game plan a little bit and tried to invent things out there when things were going south, trying to make some pitches I really wasn't used to making," Hill said.
Soriano was 9-for-21 in his previous five games. ... Former Pirates catcher Jason Kendall, now with the Cubs, played in PNC Park for the first time since being dealt to Oakland in 2004. Kendall didn't start but singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth to load the bases. ... Pirates right fielder Xavier Nady, hit in the head with a pitch Monday in St. Louis, was scratched from the lineup about 40 minutes before game time. ... The Pirates (62-79) remain three losses away from a 15th consecutive losing season. ... The Cubs have lost six of 10 to the last-place Pirates.