PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates can't seem to beat any opponent regularly except one. The Chicago Cubs, a team with a payroll that's more than three times larger than Pittsburgh's, is getting very tired of being the exception.
Tired enough, it appears, to start making some changes.Pinch-hitter Bobby Crosby singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, Garrett Jones homered and the Pirates ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Cubs 2-1 on Monday.
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The Pirates were coming off a 1-6 road trip and had lost nine of 11, only to beat the Cubs for the eighth time in nine meetings dating to the final week of last season. The Pirates were 6-1 in May against the Cubs but were 5-17 against the rest of the NL.Baffling? The Cubs think so."I don't know what's going on. We've just got to figure out what we can do to try to start hitting better and win some games," Alfonso Soriano said.For now, manager Lou Piniella plans to give a slumping Derrek Lee the day off Tuesday, the same tactic that didn't work Monday with Ryan Theriot. Theriot, who entered during a double switch in the eighth, struck out to end the game and is in a 5-for-36 slump.He's not the only Cubs hitter who isn't hitting. Lee is 1-for-14, Marlon Byrd is 7-for-46 and Aramis Ramirez is batting .162, the majors' second-lowest average for an everyday player."I don't know, I really don't know," Piniella said. "I'll be honest, I wish I had some answers. You would think that sooner or later this offense would wake up and start scoring a sufficient number of runs to win baseball games."For most of the season, the Pirates -- who were a season-low 11 games below .500 before winning -- have felt the same way. They won despite scoring three runs or fewer for the 11th time in 12 games.Jones' ninth homer of the season tied it at 1 in the sixth, and he doubled leading off the eighth against reliever Sean Marshall (5-2). After Lastings Milledge grounded out and Ryan Doumit was intentionally walked, Crosby lined a 3-2 pitch by Marshall into center field to score Jones."We need to start swinging the bats a little better," Crosby said. "Hopefully, we can start turning things around. If they [the pitching staff] can keep us in games, our bats will come around."Evan Meek (3-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory, and Octavio Dotel finished up for his 11th save in 13 opportunities.Cubs starter Randy Wells pitched five shutout innings on two days' rest after failing to retire a batter while giving up six hits on 16 pitches during a 7-1 loss Friday to the St. Louis Cardinals. Wells left with a 1-0 lead, but that disappeared in three pitches by reliever James Russell as Jones homered into the right-field seats.Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, 0-3 this season and winless in 10 starts since Aug. 18, also pitched effectively. He struck out six and walked two while allowing three hits over seven innings, and a mixup by the Pirates' outfield led to the only run he allowed.Soriano tripled into the left-center gap with one out in the second on a fly ball that center fielder Andrew McCutchen was in position to catch, before he pulled up at the last moment to avoid colliding with left fielder Ryan Church. Soriano, who came in batting .211 in his previous 12 games, then scored on Geovany Soto's grounder."They both had to run a long way for that ball. It happens," Ohlendorf said. "There were some great catches later."Despite the Soriano fly ball misplay, McCutchen roamed far to his right to slide on his left hip and catch Soriano's line drive in the sixth inning. In the eighth, third baseman Andy LaRoche likely prevented a run from scoring by making an excellent play on Mike Fontenot's two-out grounder with a runner on third.
Wells became the first Cubs pitcher to start twice in four days since Mike Bielecki on June 12 and 15, 1990. ... Cubs pitching prospect Andrew Cashner made his major league debut, retiring Ronny Cedeno on a pop-up to end the eighth on the only pitch he threw. ... The Cubs are 0-4 in Pittsburgh.