Church's two-run homer put them ahead in the sixth inning, Andy LaRoche added a solo shot and the Pirates bounced back from a poor road trip to beat the Chicago Cubs and Ryan Dempster 3-2 on Tuesday night.
The Pirates went 3-7 during a season-long road trip and had lost 10 of 13 overall before withstanding solo homers by Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. They are 6-1 in one-run games but 5-14 in all other games and had been 1-14 when scoring three runs or fewer.
"The losses that we have, we get blown out and we don't play well," Church said. "We need to get this [consistency] day in and day out. When we lose it's big and we've got to clean that up."
Church woke up with the stomach flu and was sick all day but had to start in center field because Andrew McCutchen (sprained right ankle) sat out for the first time this season. Church responded with his first homer since Aug. 7, when he played for the Atlanta Braves.
Dempster (2-2) got the first two batters in the sixth ahead of Garrett Jones' infield single. Church followed by hitting a line drive off the first row of seats in right field.
Church made a slight adjustment to his stance over the weekend in Los Angeles, backing off the plate slightly. He has four hits in three games since then.
"I'm back to where I was two years ago, before I made some changes. I listened to people, which I shouldn't have done," Church said, reflecting on alterations made when he played for the New York Mets. "I should have been more stubborn about it. We're there now, it's just getting that feel when balls start jumping and getting out. It's just a feel factor, you get that swing down and you know what you can do."
Dotel arrived at the clubhouse with a box of cigars after wife Massiel gave birth to son Eduardo on Monday. He left with his fourth save in six opportunities and a nice souvenir for his infant.
"I got the ball for him," said Dotel, who had been scored upon in six consecutive appearances.
Dotel was glad to be handed the ball at all, given that he sometimes goes five or six days without a save opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to it not being that way," said Dotel, who lowered his ERA from 10.61 to 9.58. "I'm looking to be more active. I can't have that as an excuse. I've got to get the save, I've got to hold the lead. That's what I get paid to do."
The Cubs, coming off a three-game weekend sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, fell to 13-14 while failing to break .500 for the first time this season. They had won 10 of their last 14 against the Pirates, and Dempster was 3-0 with a 3.73 ERA in five starts against them since 2008.
Chicago stranded 12 runners, with Aramis Ramirez going 0-for-4 and leaving four on base.
"Right now, I'm off -- everything," said Ramirez, who is hitting .149. "I'm late on the fastball, early on the breaking ball. I don't know what's going on. I've just got to keep working and figure out what's wrong."
Paul Maholm (2-2) got the decision despite allowing the two solo home runs and six other hits over six innings. Evan Meek pitched out of a two-on jam in the seventh, striking out Soriano and Xavier Nady. Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless eighth.
The Cubs led 2-1 after Soriano hit his seventh homer -- and fifth in four games -- in the fourth inning and Soto added a two-out drive in the sixth, his fourth. Soriano, coming off a two-homer game Sunday, went deep for the fourth consecutive game.
"We finally took the lead and they hit the two-run homer and that was the end of that," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Too many wasted opportunities."
The Pirates placed reliever Brendan Donnelly (rib cage muscle) on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 28 and recalled outfielder-first baseman Steve Pearce from Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Outfielder John Raynor, a Rule 5 pick, was returned by Pittsburgh to the Florida Marlins after he cleared waivers. ... Cubs right-hander Carlos Silva does not need a cortisone injection in his wrist as originally thought and will start Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds. ... Soriano's homer was his 15th against Pittsburgh since 2007. He has four homers in 21 at-bats against Maholm. ... LaRoche was 3-for-20 before homering with one out in the first.