Matt Murton led the Cubs (6-3) to their eighth consecutive win at Pittsburgh, 11-6, when he hit a bases-loaded triple in the fifth inning on Friday. Chicago held off a Pittsburgh comeback attempt as the Pirates hit three home runs in four at-bats in the sixth.
“It got scary there for a while,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
The win was also the Cubs’ 12th in 13 games at Pittsburgh, with their last loss there coming on April 15, 2005. Chicago has also won 21 of the last 27 contests overall against the Central Division rival, dating back to May 30, 2004.
One hitter emerging for the Cubs early this season is Murton, who has started all nine games and gone 11-for-35 (.314) with two home runs and eight RBIs.
He has a hit in each of the last four games and is 7-for-16 (.438) with one homer and five RBIs in that span.
The Cubs give Jerome Williams his first start of the season after making three relief appearances.
One of his wins came in a 2-0 Cubs’ victory over the Pirates on Sept. 4, when he pitched 7 1-3 innings allowing four hits and striking out five.
The Cubs have won six games in thier first nine contests for the first time since 1998, when they started 7-2.
The Pirates (3-9) will counter with promising left-hander Zach Duke, who looks to rebound from an 8-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. He allowed seven runs in five innings to bring his ERA to 6.55 on the season.
The 22-year-old Duke has won both of his previous starts against the Cubs, outdueling Greg Maddux in both. He has a 0.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 16 innings against Chicago.
Pittsburgh hopes Duke can go deeper into the game than their starters have recently. The Pirates have not had a starter pitch into the seventh inning this season.
“You’re down 8-2, that’s a long way to come back,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said of the team’s sixth inning deficit on Friday. “The starting pitching is the thing that is holding us up. We have to settle that matter.”
Pittsburgh may be missing first baseman Sean Casey. He left Friday’s game after reinjuring a rib and suffering back spasms.
The injury has kept Casey out of the lineup for three games this season, but he is hitting .313 with two homers in nine games—all losses.
The Pirates’ 3-9 start is their worst since 1995, when they had the same record after 12 games. That team proceeded to finish 58-86 in the lockout-shortened season.