Chicago (36-38) at Pittsburgh (36-41)

Fog Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 65° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Wed Jul 1, 2009
  • TV: CSN, FSPI
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Coming off their first winning June in 13 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates are very much within striking distance of first place in the NL Central. That apparently isn’t enough to prevent their front office from trading away more talented players.

A day after making two trades, the Pirates look to win their third straight series in the conclusion a three-game set with the reeling Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh (36-41) avoided a third straight loss with a 3-0 win on Tuesday. It came hours after the Pirates traded veteran reserve Eric Hinske(notes) to the New York Yankees for a pair of minor leaguers. They also sent talented outfielder Nyjer Morgan(notes) and reliever Sean Burnett(notes) to Washington for oft-injured minor league-outfielder Lastings Milledge(notes) and relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan(notes).

Looking to replenish an unproductive farm system, the Pirates have traded away a pair of starting outfielders for the second straight season. Pittsburgh sent All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth(notes) to Atlanta on June 3 for pitcher Charlie Morton(notes) and two prospects, one year after trading stars Xavier Nady(notes) and Jason Bay(notes).

“As always, these trades are not easy,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.

Trying to avoid a major league-record 17th consecutive losing season, the Pirates are last in the Central, but only six games behind first-place Milwaukee. Pittsburgh finished 14-13 in June for its first winning record in the month since going 15-12 in 1996.

“That’s the business of baseball,” said Pittsburgh’s Freddy Sanchez(notes), who had three hits and two RBIs on Tuesday. “We’ve got to keep playing no matter what happens.”

Sanchez, 0 for 8 in his previous two contests, is batting .688 (11 for 16) with five RBIs against the Cubs (36-38) this season.

Ross Ohlendorf(notes) pitched seven strong innings as Pittsburgh improved to 5-3 on a 10-game homestand.

Virgil Vasquez(notes) (1-0, 3.00) looks to build off his first career win when he faces the Cubs for the first time.

The 27-year-old right-hander, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2007 for Detroit, allowed two runs and four hits while striking out seven in six innings of a 5-3 win over Kansas City on Friday.

“It’s great to get an another opportunity up here ,” said Vasquez, who spent last season in the minors with Detroit before being claimed and waived by Boston and San Diego. “I’m really happy with this clubhouse and the front office and teammates and coaches.”

The Cubs, who are 2-7 on a 10-game road trip, counter with Randy Wells(notes) (2-3, 2.57) in his first start versus Pittsburgh.

After going winless in his first seven career starts this season, the right-hander allowed two runs and five hits while striking out six in seven innings of a 5-4 win over the White Sox on Friday for his second consecutive victory.

“This young man, he competes and knows how to pitch, and he’s been doing a heck of a job for us,” manager Lou Piniella told the Cubs’ official Web site.

Geovany Soto(notes) had two hits Tuesday and is 3 for 6 in the series for Chicago, which is batting .232 and been shut out three times on the swing.

“The problem is basically what it’s been all year, putting runs on the board,” said Piniella, whose team went 11-14 in June for their first losing month since August 2007. “Until that gets solved, it’s a huge struggle.”

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Starting Pitchers

R. Wells Tex vs. V. Vasquez Min
12-10 Record 2-5
3.05 ERA 5.84
104 K 29
46 BB 18
1.28 WHIP 1.70

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Jul 1