Even when the Chicago Cubs haven’t been at their best this season, they’ve still been able to find ways to win.
Following a stirring come-from-behind victory, the surging Cubs aim to complete another three-game sweep of the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday at PNC Park.
Chicago (82-50) overcame a shaky effort from its starting pitcher, a season high-tying three errors and an eighth-inning deficit to beat lowly Pittsburgh (57-75) 14-9 on Tuesday.
“Our guys battled, kept coming back, but it wasn’t easy,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “It really wasn’t one of our better games, but it’s in the win column and give these guys credit for really staying after it.”
Ace Carlos Zambrano was roughed up for six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings, but the Cubs managed to win their fourth consecutive game behind Geovany Soto, who homered and drove in a career-high seven runs.
“Soto’s a clutch hitter. With men on base, he bears down,” Piniella said of the rookie catcher, who has gone 15-for-43 (.349) with three homers and 15 RBIs over his last 13 contests.
Soto’s stellar performance helped the major league-leading Cubs move 32 games above .500 for the first time since they were 90-58 on Sept. 15, 1984. With Tuesday’s win, they also secured a ninth consecutive series victory for the first time since 1907.
Chicago, which is 13-4 versus Pittsburgh, will be trying for its third three-game sweep of the Pirates this season, and its second at PNC Park.
Trying to complete that task for the Cubs will be Jason Marquis (8-7, 4.76 ERA), who is 4-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 career games in Pittsburgh.
The right-hander gave up three runs and eight hits over six innings of a 3-0 home loss to the Pirates on Aug. 1 to fall to 2-1 with a 3.47 ERA in four starts against them in 2008.
The Cubs also lost behind Marquis on Friday, when he came away without a decision after allowing four runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 13-5 home defeat to Washington. It was his first start in nine days.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost a season high-tying six straight games. Adam LaRoche, Doug Mientkiewicz and Jack Wilson each contributed two RBIs on Tuesday, but the Pirates have dropped 10 of 12 overall.
“This is just something we’ve been doing over the past month, playing good teams and being in there and haven’t been able to get the big hit or the big hold or save,” Wilson told the Pirates’ official Web site. “It’s frustrating for all of us.”
The Pirates haven’t lost seven straight since a nine-game slide Sept. 15-23, but hope to avoid that fate behind struggling Zach Duke (4-12, 5.29).
The left-hander has dropped a career-high eight consecutive decisions since beating Arizona on June 9, posting a 6.59 ERA in that 13-start stretch. He allowed four runs and six hits over six innings to lose 10-4 at Milwaukee on Friday.
But for Duke to end his recent troubles, he’ll have to beat the Cubs for the first time in five tries this season. He won his first four career starts against them, but is winless in his last eight, including 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in four outings this year.
Though Duke has secured all four of his wins this season in Pittsburgh, he has lost five straight starts there—compiling an 8.04 ERA in those outings.
Cubs leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano is 7-for-10 against Duke this year, and is hitting .412 against Pittsburgh in 2008.