Pittsburgh (56-83) at Chicago (55-83)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Wed Sep 6, 2006
  • TV: FSPI, CSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

For the first time in nearly three months, the Pittsburgh Pirates are no longer the worst team in the NL. That honor belongs to the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates (56-83) will try to win their sixth straight game over the Cubs (55-83) when the NL Central rivals continue a four-game series on Wednesday.

On June 13, Pittsburgh owned the worst record in the league at 25-40 with Chicago owning the third-worst mark at 26-37. Florida separated the teams with 24-37 record, but have since moved back to .500.

The Pirates finally escaped the NL cellar with a 6-5 win on Tuesday. Jason Bay hit two two-run homers and Jose Bautista scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning on a wild pitch by Ryan Dempster.

“It’s a little moral victory for us,” Bay said. “You don’t want to run around and throw a party because you got out of last place.”

The Pirates have already been assured a 14th straight losing season, but also have posted five straight wins over the Cubs, their longest streak in a single season over them since winning eight in a row April 15-July 31, 1990.

Zach Duke (8-13, 4.97 ERA) looks to keep Pittsburgh’s winning streak intact and avoid losing his fourth straight start when he starts Wednesday.

Duke gave up three runs and eight hits over seven innings of a 3-1 loss to St. Louis on Friday. He walked the first batter of the game and later allowed a runner to score on a wild pitch as the Pirates quickly trailed 2-0.

“It’s very, very frustrating,” Duke said. “I did something that I can’t do, and that’s walk the leadoff guy. That always puts you in the hole.”

The left-hander went 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in seven road starts as a rookie last season, but has been dreadful this season. Duke has dropped his last five on the road, and is 1-10 with a 5.28 ERA in 15 road starts. His only win came May 2 at Wrigley Field.

Duke is 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA in five career starts against Chicago, dominating the Cubs in his first four meetings. He had a 0.56 ERA before giving up five runs in a 7-5 loss on Aug. 5.

Rich Hill (4-6, 5.23) looks to continue his stellar pitching at Wrigley Field for the Cubs.

Hill is 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his last four home starts after allowing one run and five hits in eight innings of a 6-2 win over San Francisco on Friday.

“I don’t think confidence is an issue any more,” said Hill, who started the season 0-4 with a 9.31 ERA. “After you have some success, you build on it, you start to learn that you can pitch here.”

The left-hander had one of the best games of his brief career in his only start against the Pirates. Hill allowed one run and five hits while striking out a career-high nine in seven innings of a 6-1 win on Aug.6.

The Cubs have dropped eight of their last 10 at home and 14 of 16 overall.

“It’s tough to be out there, playing in a game, people are saying it’s the two worst teams,” Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee said. “It’s not fun.”

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Starting Pitchers

Z. Duke Mil vs. R. Hill NYY
10-15 Record 6-7
4.47 ERA 4.17
117 K 90
68 BB 39
1.50 WHIP 1.23

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Sep 6