After getting past one of the NL’s top starters, the Pirates look to continue their recent success against the Cubs as the teams play the second game of a four-game series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.
The Pirates (55-83) have won four straight against the Cubs (55-82), getting the best of the battle of the NL’s two worst teams. Last-place Pittsburgh is a half-game back of Chicago in the NL Central.
“We want to get out of the cellar,” Pirates starter Paul Maholm said.
A win Tuesday would give Pittsburgh its first season series win against Chicago since 2000, when it took nine of 12 games. The Pirates are 7-5 against the Cubs this season with three meetings remaining.
Pittsburgh will also be trying to win five straight against Chicago in a season for the first time since Sept. 19-27, 1990. The Pirates did take five in a row against the Cubs over two seasons, though, winning the last meeting of 1999 and the first four in 2000.
Xavier Nady’s three-run double capped a four-run first inning as Pittsburgh hit Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano hard and defeated Chicago 5-4 on Monday. Zambrano departed after 1 1-3 innings, the shortest outing of his career, with lower back stiffness.
After a meeting with the trainer on the mound, Zambrano left the game trailing 5-0. He gave up four earned runs, four hits and four walks and lost for the first time in five starts.
After Pittsburgh reliever Salomon Torres got the last out in the ninth, he jumped off the mound in celebration. Other Pirates celebrated the win as well.
“I don’t want to finish in last place, we don’t want to finish in last place,” Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. “But those are bad goals to have. For them to be getting excited about getting out of last place, I don’t know how much difference it really makes. But I don’t want to finish in last place.”
Pittsburgh will send Victor Santos (5-9, 5.54 ERA), who’s 0-2 with a 5.94 ERA in his last three starts, to the mound Tuesday. The right-hander gave up five runs—three earned—and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings but did get a decision in a 10-9 win over the Cubs on Wednesday.
Santos is 3-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 10 starts and four relief appearances against Chicago.
If he needs it, Santos will have the support of a bullpen that has been solid of late. Pirates relievers have given up one run over the last four games, a span of 12 innings.
The Cubs will counter Santos with rookie right-hander Juan Mateo (1-2, 4.15 ERA), who sustained a deep bone bruise when he was struck on the right forearm by a line drive in the third inning against the Pirates on Wednesday. X-rays did not reveal any fracture.
The right-hander was making his fifth career start since being called up Aug. 1, giving up three runs and four hits in two-plus innings before leaving.