Cubs 4, Pirates 3
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Some advice offered long ago by Ted Williams nearly made Cubs manager Dusty Baker give Derrek Lee the night off. Because he didn’t, Lee kept up a torrid start even Teddy Ballgame would have admired.
The Pirates led 3-1 on solo homers by Jason Bay and Rob Mackowiak in the sixth before Lee chased Pittsburgh starter Josh Fogg with a solo drive in the seventh. Lee went 4-for-4 and drove in all four runs with his 11th career multihomer game, after going 1-for-13 with five strikeouts last weekend in Washington.
“You often go through a tough time after you’re hot for so long, and I contemplated sitting him because Ted Williams said that after a guy’s hot for so long, they get a little fatigued,” Baker said.
Lee looked rested against Mesa (0-2), driving a fastball into the seats in left-center for his 12th homer after Jerry Hairston doubled to start the ninth. Mesa was 13-for-13 in save opportunities and had saved a club record-tying 23 in a row dating to last season.
“I’m glad he (Baker) didn’t (give rest him) because I feel fine,” said Lee, who jumped his average to .372 and has 37 RBIs. “I was going to be aggressive right there and I thought he would pitch to me.”
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon considered intentionally walking Lee, even though he represented the winning run, but didn’t because Jeromy Burnitz, the next batter, was 3-for-9 with a homer against Mesa.
Until the Cubs rallied to win for just the seventh time in 16 one-run games, the Pirates had won 40 in a row dating to last season while leading after eight innings. And their bullpen had been near-perfect, blowing just one save in 15 opportunities, while the Cubs were just 6-of-13 in save conversions.
That didn’t prevent Ryan Dempster from needing just eight pitches to retire all three hitters he faced for his first save in two opportunities and the third of his career.
“That was a tremendous lift for us,” Baker said. “Another one-run loss like that would have been devastating.”
While Mesa (0-2) was perfect as a closer, he was scored upon for the fourth time in six appearances and lost for the second time in his last three games. He gave up the winning run in the ninth in a 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Friday.
“Nobody had visions of him being perfect all season,” Bay said. “I’d take that anytime again tomorrow, a one-run lead in the ninth and him out there.”
Fogg yielded 10 hits and two runs over 6 2-3 innings, and left with a 3-2 lead by stranding eight runners in the first five innings alone. The Cubs left two on in the first, third and fourth innings, then managed only one run in the fifth—on Lee’s sacrifice fly—despite having three hits and a walk.
“He’s just locked in right now,” Fogg said of Lee. “You try to do different things to keep him offbalance because he feels good at the plate.”
Will Ohman (2-0) got Daryle Ward, the only batter he faced, to ground into a double play in the eighth for the victory after starter Mark Prior—5-0 in nine career starts—gave up as many homers in the sixth as he had in 44 previous innings this season.
Prior is winless in four May starts despite permitting only five earned runs in his last three starts.
With the score tied at 1, Prior allowed two homers in a span of three batters in the sixth—both while ahead in the count. Bay drove an 0-1 Prior pitch deep into the right-field seats with one out, his eighth, and Mackowiak hit his second on a 1-2 pitch.
Prior had allowed only three earned runs in 22 2-3 innings while going 2-0 in three previous starts in PNC Park. He hasn’t won since beating the Reds 10-6 on April 25.
Fogg has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his seven starts, but has permitted 18 hits in 11 2-3 innings at home. … Pirates relievers had given up just three runs in 12 games before the ninth. … Tike Redman singled ahead of Humberto Cota’s RBI double in the second and is 8-for-15 against Prior. … Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez returned after not starting Sunday in Washington because of lower back tightness. … Neifi Perez is 11-for-18 against Pittsburgh.