Marte, Pirates can't come away with victory vs. Cubs in extra innings
CHICAGO — Starling Marte kept his career-high hitting streak going in dramatic fashion.
The Pirates left fielder, 0 for 4 when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning, hit a game-tying homer on a full-count pitch from Cubs reliever Kevin Gregg to tie the score.
The dramatic homer, however, only delayed the loss. Pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro hit a sacrifice fly to right field with the bases loaded and nobody out to score Anthony Rizzo and give the Cubs a 4-3, 11-inning win at Wrigley Field.
With Bryan Morris (4-3) pitching in relief, Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano hit back-to-back singles to get the inning started. It was the first hit of the day for both.
Luis Valbuena, 0 for 3 as he stepped in, took the first strike, but on the next pitch catcher Russell Martin made his first throwing error of the year attempting the pickoff at second. The ball went into center field, and both runners advanced.
Morris intentionally walked Valbuena to load the bases, bringing up Navarro to bat for pitcher Matt Guerrier (3-4).
“You've got a couple different options,” manager Clint Hurdle said of the approach. “Valbuena's a contact hitter, they've got multiple options with him. He's got a good eye at the plate. Fill up the bases, you've got a guy that's weaker on the left than the right. We know what Navarro's capable of, but you hit a ground ball at somebody, and we can go home to first, we've got a potential double-play, we've got a potential swing-and-miss strikeout and then (Darwin) Barney.
“That's the reason we played it like we did.”
It marked the first time the Pirates lost back-to-back games since dropping three straight in Atlanta, June 3-5.
A.J. Burnett made his first start in a month, coming off the disabled list earlier that day, and left with the score tied, 2-2, after five innings. He threw 66 pitches and finished with three hits and two runs allowed, one unearned.
Hurdle said Burnett would have stayed in the game had he not been up to bat with runners on first and second and two outs.
“I don't want to go five,” Burnett said. “I knew I was on a pitch count and all, but things could have been different.”
Scott Hairston hit his first pinch-hit home run of the season in the seventh inning off reliever Tony Watson to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
Burnett's previous start was on June 8, also at Wrigley, and he went 81⁄3 innings while allowing just two runs on four hits. He went on the disabled list with a right calf strain. Burnett was 5-0 in six career starts at Wrigley Field entering the game and had given up two runs in two starts while with the Pirates in the friendly confines.
“Nothing not to like,” Hurdle said. “Ball came out of his hand very crisp. He pitched efficiently.”
Because Burnett suffered a calf strain and nothing arm-related, neither he nor the Pirates felt a rehab start was necessary. The right-hander backed that up with a seven-pitch first inning, aided by a diving stop by Brandon Inge at second base to get the third out. Inge started the game in place of Neil Walker, who still has soreness in his right side.
The Cubs scored two runs in the third inning. Pitcher Carlos Villanueva singled to lead off, and Burnett got the first out with his second strikeout of the day. But Starlin Castro doubled off the ivy in right field, sending Villanueva to third, and he scored after Garrett Jones dropped a ball hit by Rizzo and was charged with an error. Castro then scored to make it 2-0 when Soriano flied out to center field.
“I left some balls over to (Starlin) Castro that he hit pretty well, right in his wheelhouse,” Burnett said. “(On) Soriano's sac fly, I need to get the ball more down and away. He was able to get wood on it. As far as moving around, the first play of the game, I had to go cover first. Go figure that. But everything felt great, and it was good to be back on the mound.”
Villanueva made his ninth start of the season but first since May 14 after pitching out of the bullpen the past six weeks. He gave up consecutive doubles to Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen to start the fourth inning, cutting the Cubs' lead in half. But after Martin walked and stole second with two outs, Inge grounded out to strand runners on second and third. Villanueva was finished after the inning, replaced by Hector Rondon.
Tabata doubled off Rondon to score Marte and tie it, 2-2, while bringing his total to 7 for 17 in the five games since coming off the disabled list.
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
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