Pirates 4, Cubs 3

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CHICAGO (AP)—The Chicago Cubs have no idea why LaTroy Hawkins has struggled so much as a closer the last two years.

Jason Bay hit a tying homer off Hawkins in the ninth inning and pinch-hitter Freddy Sanchez tripled home the go-ahead run, sending the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-3 victory Saturday over Chicago.

Hawkins got off to a slow start this season but had earned saves in his past three appearances. This was his second blown save in four chances with a one-run lead—a problem that has carried over from last year, when he blew eight of 12 save opportunities with a one-run advantage.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker said he doesn’t know what’s wrong with Hawkins, but hinted that changes could be coming.

“LaTroy has the stuff,” Baker said. “I can’t figure it out. I don’t want to think about it tonight.”

Hawkins was upset at himself for wasting Greg Maddux’s strong start, but said he still relishes the closer’s role.

“I’m frustrated, but I’ll get back out there and right the ship,” he said.

Corey Patterson’s leadoff homer against Salomon Torres in the eighth gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead, but Patterson struck out against Jose Mesa with runners at the corners to end the game.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Baker said. “We’re snake-bit. I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board or do something else.”

With one out in the top of the ninth, Bay drove 1-0 pitch from Hawkins (0-1) into the right-field bleachers.

“He’s got good stuff,” Bay said. “It was kind of a mistake pitch that came back over the plate. I didn’t think I got under it enough, but it just caught the wind right.”

Hawkins then walked Craig Wilson, who stole second, and struck out Rob Mackowiak before getting pulled for Glendon Rusch.

Sanchez put Pittsburgh ahead with a triple to right-center for his first RBI of the season. The Pirates have won two in a row for the first time this season.

“That was a good at-bat in a difficult situation,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I just felt better with Freddy from the right side of the plate and he came up big.”

Bay tripled off Maddux in the fourth for the Pirates’ first hit of the game. His homer was his second of the season.

John Grabow (1-0) got two outs in the eighth to earn the win, striking out Jeromy Burnitz with a runner on third to end the inning. Mesa worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in six chances.

The Pirates had been 0-10 when trailing after eight innings. The Cubs were 7-1 when leading in the ninth.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Baker said.

Maddux and Pittsburgh starter Mark Redman were sharp early, moving the game along quickly on a frigid day at Wrigley Field. The gametime temperature was 36 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like 24 because of gusting winds.

Redman was the first to crack, getting into trouble in the third. He walked Michael Barrett and gave up a single to Neifi Perez. Barrett was forced at third on a bunt by Maddux. Jerry Hairston followed with a double to right over Matt Lawton’s head, scoring Perez. Maddux likely could have made it home, but third-base coach Chris Speier held him at third.

The Cubs added another run in the sixth when Redman walked Aramis Ramirez with two outs and he scored on Jason Dubois’ double to left.

Maddux gave up just one hit and allowed only one other baserunner until there were two outs in the seventh. Wilson hit a bloop single to right, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Mackowiak’s single.

Mackowiak stole second and Bobby Hill knocked him in with a double.

“I had two outs with no one on and they score two runs,” Maddux said. “I feel like I let us down more than anyone.”

Maddux gave up four hits and two runs in eight innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Redman allowed two runs, five hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out five.

Notes

Cubs RHP Kerry Wood will face Josh Fogg on Sunday. … McClendon dropped SS Jack Wilson from second to seventh in the batting order. It didn’t work as Wilson went 0-for-4. Wilson is hitless in his last 23 at-bats and has just three hits in his past 42 at-bats. He’s hitting .134 (9-for-67). “I’m trying to get Jack a break here,” McClendon said before the game. “I think he’s been pressing at the top of the order.”

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