Pedro Alvarez’s 22nd home run of the season was not enough as the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in the middle game of their three-game series Saturday at Wrigley Field.The loss snapped the Bucs’ seven-game road win streak and dropped their record to 53-33 as they now have a one game lead over second-place St. Louis in the National League Central. The last time Clint Hurdle’s crew lost away from PNC Park was back on June 19 against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run to center field that put the Cubs ahead to stay with none out in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two out in the bottom of the fifth, Soriano blasted his second homer of the game, and his 12th of the season, to put last-place Chicago up 4-1.
Edwin Jackson and three Cubs relievers – James Russell, Matt Guerrier, and Kevin Gregg – combined on a five-hitter against Pittsburgh. The victory improved Jackson’s record to 5-10. The righthander allowed just one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. Gregg picked up his 15th save.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton saw his record drop to 1-2 this season. He pitched six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits. The righty struck out six and walked three on the afternoon.
Pittsburgh took an early lead in the top of the fourth inning, when with two outs Alvarez hit a solo home run to left-center to put the Bucs up 1-0.
Starling Marte collected two hits for Pittsburgh and extended his hitting streak to 11 games to go along with two stolen bases on the afternoon.
The final game of this three-game series will be at 2:20 p.m. Sunday. Chicago (37-48) will send righthander Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.45 ERA) to the mound while the Pirates will go with righthander A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12 ERA). Burnett, who is making his return from a strained calf, has 99 strikeouts in 2013. The game will be broadcast on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
From The Clipboard: With Wednesday’s win, Jeff Locke became the first Bucs lefthander to win eight consecutive decisions since John Candelaria back in 1983….Jason Grilli’s 28 saves prior to the All-Star break are the most in team history. The previous record was 26 by Joel Hanrahan in 2011….Russell Martin threw out two baserunners on Thursday and now has 16 this season. It is the most by a Bucs catcher since Ronny Paulino had 19 in 2007….Gaby Sanchez has hit six of his seven home runs on the road this season