PITTSBURGH -- For the Pittsburgh Pirates, a 10-run margin isn't all that unusual this season. Only there was a big difference: This time, they won.
Lastings Milledge drove in four runs, Garrett Jones added three RBIs and the Pirates finally won a one-sided game, beating the Cubs 11-1 Thursday night for their first sweep of their NL Central rival in nearly four years.Brian Burres (2-1), roughed up in three consecutive appearances before pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a spot start April 29 against Los Angeles, allowed three hits over seven shutout innings to win his second in a row. Before that, he hadn't won in nearly two seasons.The Pirates are winning nearly every close game but losing lots of blowouts; they've lost 11 times by six runs or more. And their minus-86 run differential through 27 games was easily the worst in either the NL or AL. However, they are 6-1 in one-run games.For a change, they put this one away early -- and easily -- following a two-hour pregame meeting with a communications coach designed to build their social skills and boost their image. A five-run first inning against Cubs starter Randy Wells (3-1) no doubt accomplished that."We've been on the other side of that a few times," Pirates manager John Russell said.The Pirates hadn't won by more than four runs since beating the Dodgers 11-5 on opening day April 5."That felt good," Milledge said.Wells (3-1) didn't walk any in his previous two starts, only to walk Akinori Iwamura and Andy LaRoche in succession in the first. Andrew McCutchen and Jones followed with RBI singles and Ryan Doumit doubled in a run. Milledge, who came in with six RBIs in 93 at-bats, finished it off with a two-run double.Asked what happened, Wells said, "Too cocky, too confident" -- and he didn't have a pregame morale-boosting session, either."Terrible, unacceptable," he said. "In the bullpen, I don't think I missed a pitch. Get in the game, and there was a lot of whacking. I let it get out of hand. I got lackadaisical."Wells lasted at least six innings in each of his first five starts, but yielded seven runs, six earned, in two innings to halt his four-game winning streak.Manager Lou Piniella didn't say anything to his players after they were outsccored 18-5 during Pittsburgh's first sweep of Chicago since Aug. 28-30, 2006."I'll say something tomorrow but what am I going to say (tonight)?" he said. "You should be able to look in the mirror pretty easy after something like this."Milledge added another two-run double in the fourth against reliever Jeff Gray. Even if he thought it was a homer.As fireworks went off prematurely, Milledge's drive deflected off the base of the left field wall rather than clearing the fence. Milledge was tagged out as he jogged between second and third -- a potentially costly error in a close game."I think that was the most exciting double in PNC (Park) history," Milledge said. "It was my fault. I didn't look at the ball. I saw (left fielder Alfonso) Soriano back and all the fireworks, and I had a lapse for a second. If it had been a one-run game, it would have been devastating."Burres gave the Pirates something they've rarely had all season -- successive strong starts by the same pitcher. The left-hander struck out four and walked three, lowering an ERA that was 9.31 before the Dodgers start to 4.09.Burres will stay in the rotation even after right-hander Ross Ohlendorf comes off the disabled list on Monday."He deserves every right to continue to pitch for us," Russell said.
The Cubs committed three errors. ... Pittsburgh has swept two of its last three series at home, but was outscored 36-1 while losing three to the Brewers in the other. ... The Pirates have scored in the first inning in seven of their last eight games.