MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—In a series featuring the two worst teams in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates look to close the gap with the team above them and sweep the slumping Chicago Cubs when they wrap up their three-game series at PNC Park on Wednesday.
The Pirates (52-81) started the season 0-6, and have been last in the NL Central ever since. After defeating the Cubs 7-6 in 11 innings on Tuesday, sixth-place Pittsburgh only trails Chicago (54-78) by 2 1/2 games.
The Pirates tied Tuesday’s game in the 11th when the Cubs committed their season-high fourth error of the game and pinch-runner Ian Snell scored. Pittsburgh, which avoided clinching its 14th consecutive losing season, then scored the winning run as Chicago closer Ryan Dempster walked Jose Bautista with the bases loaded.
“Everyone contributed to this win,” said Xavier Nady, who went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. “It’s always nice to see that. We’ll have to continue to build on this.”
Nady has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, batting .404 (23-for-57) with nine runs and nine RBIs in that span.
Pittsburgh has won 10 of its last 18 games, including a three-game sweep of divsion-leading St. Louis Aug. 11-13.
Victor Santos (5-9, 5.59 ERA) looks help the Pirates to another sweep when he pitches Wednesday.
Santos allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings of a 5-1 loss to Houston on Friday. It was his longest outing since throwing seven innings in a 3-2 win over San Francisco on June 9.
The right-hander is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 career games against the Cubs, and is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against them this season.
Chicago has lost five straight games and nine of its last 10. The Cubs have not lost six consecutive games since June 13-18.
“It seems like we find ways to lose ballgames,” said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who played for Pittsburgh from 1998-2003. “The other team isn’t beating us. We’re beating ourselves right now.
“It’s frustrating coming to the ballpark. Some of the guys are down. We aren’t playing the way we want to play.”
Ramirez went 3-for-3 with season highs of three runs and three walks on Tuesday, and is batting .400 (14-for-35) with six doubles in 10 games against his former team this season.
Derrek Lee went 3-for-6 in his second game since coming off the disabled list, and his RBI single gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead in the top of the 11th inning.
Rookie Juan Mateo (1-2, 3.38) looks to avoid losing his third straight start when he takes the mound. Mateo allowed two runs and a season-high 10 hits in five innings of a 2-0 loss to St. Louis on Friday, his second straight loss to the Cardinals.
“This guy knows how to pitch, he uses both sides of the plate, changes eye level, and has a pretty good idea,” Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. “He got some pretty good hitters out.”
The right-hander has allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of his four career starts, and has given up just two homers in 24 innings.
Mateo has never faced the Pirates.