Cubs deal Pirates costly loss

Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:27pm EDT

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Cubs deal Pirates costly loss

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs closed a dismal home season on a positive note as Darnell McDonald's three-run homer helped secure a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

But the final home victory didn't ease the sting of a 31-50 record at Wrigley Field, the worst in franchise history.

"It's obviously the defining thing on our season," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's disappointing because the fans have been great, and to lose 50 games is something you don't even think about at home. It's very difficult to take."

McDonald went 3-for-4 and broke a 1-1 tie with his sixth inning homer off Pirates starter Francisco Liriano (16-8).

The victory snapped a three-game Cubs losing streak and salvaged the finale of the three-game series.

Starter Jake Arrieta (4-2) won his second straight decision while reliever Kevin Gregg worked the ninth for his 33rd save.

The Pirates, already in the postseason as a National League wild card qualifier, fell three games behind St. Louis in the NL Central Division title race with three games to play.

Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo each had two hits for the Cubs. Marte and Morneau each had a pair for the Pirates.

Barney doubled with one out in the first and Chicago jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first as Rizzo collected his team-leading 79th RBI with a single.

Pittsburgh matched the run in the second, loading the bases. Arrieta walked Justin Morneau with two out, forcing in Starling Marte for a 1-1 tie.

Starlin Castro's error allowed Pedro Alvarez to reach third to open the fourth, but the Pirates came up empty as Tony Sanchez popped out to short and Clint Barmes lined into a double play.

Pittsburgh also had a runner at third in the sixth but failed to deliver. Morneau doubled to open the inning and advanced on a fielder's choice. But Alvarez grounded to first and Sanchez struck out looking.

"That's been one of the challenges we've had throughout the season," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to find ways to cash in on those situations. It's tough to continue to pitch without a safety net."

McDonald's three-run homer to left center with none out in the sixth snapped a 1-1 tie and brought home Donnie Murphy and Junior Lake. It was his first homer of the season.

"It was very sweet," he said. "That's one of the things that all of us can learn from right now. We're trying to get to where these teams are at that we're playing down the stretch, really watching how they go about their business and how they play the game."

Liriano departed after that homer in favor of right-hander Vin Mazzaro. Liriano officially pitched six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. He struck out eight and walked just one.

"It's not the way you want to finish the year," Liriano said.

Arrieta, meanwhile, did not return for the seventh. He allowed one run on four hits, walked two and struck out one.

"It was a playoff-caliber baseball game right there," Arrieta said. "One trying to win the division and the other team trying to finish on a high note. It was as a well-played game, pitched well on both sides."

Pirate pinch hitter Jose Tabata tripled with one out in the ninth off Gregg, driving in pinch runner Felix Pie to cut the Cubs led to 4-2.

NOTES: The 50 home losses surpassed the old franchise record of 49 shared by the 1962, 1966 and 1974 teams. ... INF Luis Valbuena enters the season's final three home games needing four hits to reach 300 for his career. ... Of 25 players on the Cubs Opening Day roster, only 12 were on hand for the last home game with 13 traded or otherwise released. ... Three starting pitchers (Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood) never missed a 2013 start. ... The Cubs send LHP Travis Wood (9-10, 2.98 ERA) against Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (14-10, 4.09 ERA) in Friday's series opener in St. Louis. ... Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole closed his regular season with 34 strikeouts in 26 innings over his last four starts. The last Pirates rookie with 34 or more strikeouts over a four-start span was Jose DeLeon with 38 in August 1983. ... Pittsburgh has 29 wins in one-run games this season, the most since the 1993 club also won 29. ... The next time the Pirates face the Cubs will be on Opening Day on March 31, 2014 at PNC Park. ... Pittsburgh opens a three-game series in Cincinnati on Friday. Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 3.39 ERA) goes against Reds RHP Homer Bailey (11-11, 3.40 ERA).

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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