The Pirates try to beat the Cubs for only the third time in 12 games this season when the teams close a three-game set Sunday afternoon at PNC Park.
Faced with the prospect of another loss to Chicago (29-20), Pittsburgh (23-26) forced extra innings with a run in the bottom of the ninth off closer Kerry Wood on Saturday night.
Jason Bay delivered the game-winning single over a drawn-in outfield in the 14th, giving the Pirates a 5-4 victory - their first win in five home games this season against the Cubs.
“It was my first RBI single of the year - and it could have been a double if it hadn’t been a walk-off (situation),” Bay said, referring to the scoring rule that counts all such game-winning hits as singles. “Regardless of how it happened, it’s a win and I’m excited.”
These teams have played games of 12, 15 and 14 innings this season - all in Pittsburgh.
Bay, who matched a career high with four hits, also hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, continuing his comeback season after batting a career-low .247 with 21 homers in 2007. He has hit 10 of his 12 home runs this year at home after only 46 of the first 118 in his career came at PNC Park.
Saturday’s win was just Pittsburgh’s second in 11 games against Chicago, which has outscored the Pirates 85-46 in the season series.
“We’ve won some games against them, but they always play us close and we definitely don’t see them on the schedule and think we’re going to win,” Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot said. “They always play us tough.”
Pittsburgh hasn’t beaten the Cubs on back-to-back days since Sept. 4-5, 2006.
Chicago’s Alfonso Soriano was limited to one hit in seven at-bats Saturday, but does have a hit in all eight of his games against the Pirates this season. He has always done well against Pittsburgh pitching, batting .385 (55-for-143) with 15 homers and 31 RBIs in 32 games.
Another strong outing from Ted Lilly (5-4, 5.14 ERA) could help the Cubs return to Wrigley Field on Monday with a 3-3 road trip. The left-hander won his fourth straight start Monday at Houston, allowing two runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings with six strikeouts in a 7-2 victory.
Lilly is 4-0 with a 3.55 ERA in his last four starts, striking out 31 and walking only six during that span.
He struggled in his first start this season against the Pirates, though, getting tagged for five runs and seven hits over 3 2-3 innings in a game Chicago eventually won 10-8 in 12 innings on April 7 at Pittsburgh.
Paul Maholm (2-5, 5.03) looks to snap a personal three-game losing streak for the Pirates. Since allowing two total runs during back-to-back wins over Florida and Philadelphia in April, the left-hander is 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA in four starts.
Maholm lost at home for the first time since last July 31 his last time out, giving up four runs and nine hits in six-plus innings Tuesday in a 7-2 defeat to Milwaukee. He had gone 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA in seven starts at PNC Park before the loss.
Maholm is 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.
Soriano is 4-for-10 with two home runs against Maholm, while former Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez is 5-for-13 with a pair of homers.