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Cubs complete sweep of Pirates at PNC Park

| Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, 5:39 p.m.
The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano is greeted at home by teammate Anthony Rizzo after hitting the go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday. At left is Pirates catcher Michael McKenry. The Cubs won, 4-2. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hangs his head after walking from the mound during the eighth inning Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. The Cubs won, 4-2. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli hangs his head after blowing a lead to the Cubs at PNC Park Sunday, September 9, 2012. The Cubs won the game 4-2. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen acknowledges the crowd after homering in the first inning against the Cubs on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen can't reach a fourth-inning homer by the Cubs on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

The Pirates aren't a team that can afford to waste offensive opportunities, but you wouldn't know it based on their game Sunday at PNC Park.

The home team squandered chance after chance en route to a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs, including one last time in the ninth inning.

Brock Holt hit a leadoff single for his third hit of the game, and closer Carlos Marmol walked Starling Marte to bring Andrew McCutchen to the plate. McCutchen had hit his first home run since Aug. 15 in the first inning to give the Pirates an early lead, but this time he popped out.

Garrett Jones walked to load the bases, but Gaby Sanchez struck out and Pedro Alvarez fell into an 0-2 hole before flying out to left field to end the game.

The Pirates finished 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on base.

“That would probably be at the top of the list, most definitely,” manager Clint Hurdle said of the missed opportunities.

It was the first series sweep on the road for the Cubs in more than two years, and the Pirates were the victims the last time (Aug. 1-4, 2010, in Pittsburgh).

For the Pirates, the loss was their third in a row and their seventh in the past nine games with a series at National League Central-leading Cincinnati up next. When they beat the Cubs in Chicago on Aug. 1, the Pirates were 16 games over .500. They are now just five above the break-even point.

McCutchen said he doesn't know why the Pirates haven't capitalized on their chances, but they won't help themselves by focusing on the negatives.

“It's not what's missing; it's what can I do to be better,” he said. “Whatever it is, we need to set our minds on that and not put pressure on ourselves when you come into a situation where you feel like you have to get the job done. We're a young ballclub, and I feel like the past couple days have shown us being a young ballclub, but you have to focus on doing the little things right and see what you can do.”

The Pirates put two runners on base after McCutchen's first-inning, two-out homer, but Alvarez struck out to end the inning. That scenario would repeat throughout the game.

Jeff Locke, who struck out six and walked none, gave up solo home runs to rookies Josh Vitters and Anthony Recker, and the Cubs took the lead in the fourth.

The Pirates caught a break in the seventh when Holt tripled and James Russell (7-1) was called for a balk. Still, the Pirates left two runners on when Alvarez grounded out. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off reliever Jason Grilli (1-6) in the eighth.

“At the end of the day, it's a team loss,” Hurdle said. “We're not doing enough things well as a team to win games. They played better defense than us. They pitched better than us. They hit better than us for three games. … It's time to put a foot down and win a game.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@tribweb.com.

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