Pirates 3, Cubs 2
CHICAGO (AP)—With the rain coming down and the atmosphere gloomy, the Cubs’ disappointing season at Wrigley Field came to an appropriately miserable end.
Bases loaded in the ninth and nobody out. Of course, they didn’t score.
“It was very symbolic. It seems likes we get in that situation and we don’t get anything. It’s very frustrating,” manager Dusty Baker said after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. “We had a great chance to win that game.”
The Cubs figured to win a lot of games this season, especially at their cozy neighborhood ball park. Instead, baseball’s lovable losers were 38-43 at Wrigley Field and must sweep a four-game series at Houston to finish at .500 overall.
The announced attendance on an overcast day was 37,491, giving the Cubs 3,099,992 for 80 home dates, the second-largest attendance figure in club history.
“We had a hard time holding up our end of the bargain,” Baker said.
Pirates reliever Salomon Torres pitched a scoreless eighth and gave up a single to Matt Murton in the ninth. After Mike Gonzalez relieved, Jeromy Burnitz reached on second baseman J.J. Furmaniak’s error when he couldn’t come up with his hard shot and Henry Blanco walked to load the bases with no outs.
“I was having a little trouble getting the grip of the ball. The rosin was wet and my hands were wet, so I had to deal with that,” Gonzalez said. “What I wanted to do was strike out the lefties I had in front of me and get the other guy to ground out or pop up.”
And that’s what he did to the dismay of Baker and the Cubs.
“We get so much fan support, you’d think you’d play well here, but we didn’t,” Chicago’s Derrek Lee said. “It’s something we have to get better at.”
Paul Maholm (3-1) made his sixth major league start and outpitched Mark Prior (11-7), who lost to Pittsburgh for the first time in his career. Maholm, a 23-year-old left-hander, gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Nate McLouth’s fourth homer of the season, a solo shot, gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead in the fifth against Prior. Dropping to 6-1 in 11 starts against the Pirates, Prior allowed three runs—one earned—and six hits in five innings with seven strikeouts and four walks.
“I felt out of synch all day. The ball never felt comfortable coming out of my hand,” Prior said.
Maholm allowed one hit in the first four innings, a single by Prior in the third.
“I just wanted to go out and end the year on a good note,” Maholm said. “I didn’t want to go into the offseason after getting shelled. It’s going to be great competition in spring training. I think I’m in the mix.”
Macias lead off the sixth with his first homer of the season, driving in Chicago’s first run. Lee singled and Nomar Garciaparra, whose costly error in the second led to two unearned runs, doubled off the right-field wall. Matt Murton pulled the Cubs within a run with an RBI grounder to shortstop.
Prior was shaky from the outset, hitting leadoff batter Freddy Sanchez and walking two before pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the first.
Humberto Cota and Furmaniak singled in the second and, one out later, Sanchez hit a perfect double-play grounder to Garciaparra at third, but his throw to second hit Cota’s helmet and sailed into right field for an error that allowed Cota to score. Furmaniak moved to third and scored on Jason Bay’s two-out single, which gave him 100 RBIs for the season.
“They say come to the ballpark and you’ll see something you haven’t seen before,” Baker said. “I haven’t seen that before, you hit a guy in the helmet on the double-play ball.”
For the Cubs, that’s the kind of season it’s been.
Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a fourth-inning single. … Bay has played in all 159 Pirates games this season. … Cubs rookie INF Ryan Theriot was unavailable after getting food poisoning. … The Pirates (65-94) have Thursday off and then close out the season with a three-game series at home against Milwaukee. … Pittsburgh is 10-13 since Pete Mackanin took over as interim manager. … Macias’ homer was his first in a year and a day. He homered against Cincinnati on Sept. 27, 2004. He hit three last season. … The grounds crew led the singing during the seventh-inning stretch.