Pirates-Cubs Preview

AP - Sports

The Chicago Cubs have captured five straight home series after taking one against an NL contender to open this six-game homestand.

They'll welcome another one of the league's top teams to Wrigley Field on Monday night in the start of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago (42-58) improved to an NL-best 12-3 at home since June 25 after winning the final two games of a weekend series against St. Louis. Anthony Rizzo hit his first career walk-off homer with a two-run shot in the 10th inning in Sunday's 4-2 victory.

"This is something I've always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid," said Rizzo, who is 7 for 15 with three homers and seven RBIs over his last four contests. "I've never done it before - not in the minors, not in Little League, not ever. This is awesome."

These teams are meeting again after the Cubs outscored Pittsburgh 9-4 in taking two of three at PNC Park last week.

The Pirates' Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) was a hard-luck loser in a 2-0 defeat in the opener of that series. He struck out 11 and allowed one run and two hits over seven innings.

"It was fun to watch him go to work, too, with the fastball-curveball-changeup combination," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Bedard has not pitched since that outing because the Pirates (58-43) inserted the newly acquired Wandy Rodriguez into their rotation Saturday in Houston. Bedard, who has never pitched at Wrigley Field, has yielded one run and four hits over 13 innings against Chicago this year.

Pittsburgh's lineup will be boosted Monday with the return of Andrew McCutchen, who leads the majors with a .368 average. The star center fielder did not start Sunday's 9-5 defeat at Houston since Hurdle wanted to rest him.

McCutchen popped out as a pinch-hitter and went 4 for 12 in the four-game series. He's 6 for 18 against the Cubs this year to lead the Pirates.

The Pirates' four-game win streak ended Sunday. They continue to lead the wild-card race, but fell three games behind NL Central leader Cincinnati.

Garrett Jones homered, extending the club's streak with at least one to a team-record 19 straight road games. The Pirates lead the majors with 72 road homers.

Pittsburgh took two of three in all three visits to Wrigley last year, homering nine times as McCutchen and Neil Walker each went deep twice.

The only Pirates hitter with more than one at-bat against right-hander Justin Germano (0-1, 3.00) is shortstop Clint Barmes, who is 2 for 4. Germano will pitch Monday for Chicago in his first start since Oct. 3, 2010, with Cleveland.

"He's crafty," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "He's not going to light up a radar gun, but he's got great arm speed on all his offspeed pitches and can change speeds on a slow curveball - anywhere from 68-75, 78 mph curveball, changeup.

"He sinks the ball, keeps the ball down. He's kind of crafty as much as anything but has command of four pitches."

Germano's lone previous appearance for Chicago came July 21 when he allowed one run over three innings at St. Louis.

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