Cubs can't hold Pirates in rubber-game loss

Cubs can't hold Pirates in rubber-game loss

Cubs can't hold Pirates in rubber-game loss
CHICAGO -- Travis Wood lost Wednesday on a pitch he threw and another that he didn't.

Starling Marte hit a solo home run and the Pirates scored another run on a balk call against Wood, then added five more in the eighth, including three on Michael McKenry's 10th home run, to post an 8-4 victory over the Cubs in the rubber game at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs tried to rally in the ninth, scoring on a RBI triple by Jeff Baker and a two-run home run by Welington Castillo against Joel Hanrahan, but came up short.

Wood (4-7) dropped his fourth straight decision after winning four in a row. The left-hander, who cut off his long hair after his last game when he served up five home runs to the Cardinals, struck out six over five innings.

The reason for the haircut?

"We just needed a little change," Wood said.

OK, back to the game.

"It was a battle early," Wood said. "I was missing location, and just off and throwing balls. Unfortunately, we came up short."

Part of the problem was that Wood fell behind batters.

"There were no strike ones going on, so the at-bats were carrying on a little bit," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, the pitch count got up. He got the outs when he had to. I think he'll tell you, with the stuff he had today, to go five [innings], it wasn't a bad outing."

The game was close until the Pirates' five-run eighth. Starlin Castro hit his career-high 11th home run with one out in the first off Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (4-2). But Marte tied the game with a leadoff home run in the third. One out later, Andrew McCutchen walked and reached third on Travis Snider's single before scoring on a balk call against Wood.

The Cubs were coming off a 15-10 July, their first winning record for the month since 2009. They couldn't muster much against Karstens, who gave up three hits over five innings.

The Pirates sent seven batters to the plate in the eighth against Shawn Camp, who had given up two runs in his last 20 outings. On Wednesday, he couldn't get anyone out. Pittsburgh tallied on a two-run single by pinch-hitter Garrett Jones and McKenry's three-run homer, and Camp was lifted.

"Sometimes the law of averages will catch up to you," Sveum said. "I don't know if he's had one of those all year."

Camp hadn't. The most runs he had given up in a single game was three, and that was in his second outing of the year. On the plus side, Alberto Cabrera, called up from Triple-A Iowa Wednesday and making his Major League debut, struck out two of the three batters he faced.

There was a scary moment in the Pirates' seventh when Baker rolled over on his left wrist trying to snare Pedro Alvarez's ball. Baker was fine, and hit a double and triple after that.

"It was actually better," Baker said. "I slowed myself down, I didn't want to do too much."

While the Pirates are contending for a playoff spot, sporting a 40-20 record since May 25, the Cubs are regrouping after a busy 24 hours in which they dealt Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto. None of the players acquired are Major League ready now, or even next year.

"They're great guys -- outstanding pitchers, outstanding teammates," Wood said of the ex-Cubs. "When you lose people like that, it's hard to replace them. They're moving on and we have to, too."

"We lost a lot of good friends, good teammates and on top of that, good baseball players," Baker said. "We put ourselves in a situation where we got off to a slow start and didn't play well. I still believe in the guys in the room and it's an opportunity for some guys to prove themselves so they can play and be part of the plans going forward. We still have to play good baseball. Everyone in here is a big league player, and now it's time to step up and run with it."

It's time to look to the future.

"Right now, it's very difficult to think you're going forward when you lose those guys," Sveum said, "but that's what we're trying to accomplish here, and we got six or seven really quality guys in those trades. Whether they're two, three, four years away, who knows? We got some quality arms and guys who we've talked to other people about and they should be good Major League players."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.