Ah, nothing like a damp, chilly day at Wrigley. And hey, with Paul Maholm pitching, the odds are that it'll be a quick game. He's been good and the Bucs don't waste any time behind him with things like baserunners.
The first inning amplified the point; Garrett Jones walked and was caught stealing. In the second, the Bucs started with a single and walk; the next three guys K'ed. They went down 1-2-3 in the third. Maholm, as usual, was dealing, using thirty pitches to mow down the first nine Cubs.
But the fourth inning provided some long overdue runs for the snakebitten Maholm and slacker Bucco attack.
McCutch dropped a soft liner into left to lead off the fourth. Neil Walker doubled going the opposite way, his ball just beyond the reach of Alfonso Soriano, to put runners at second and third (McCutch had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught or not). Steve Pearce bounced a single up the middle to put the Pirates up 2-0, and they were just starting.
Chris Snyder walked on four pitches, and Ronny Cedeno hit his second home run of the year into right center, dropping gently over the basket and into the first couple of rows, to give the Pirates a 5-0 lead. Pittsburgh scored more runs that one inning than they had in any previous PM game of 2011. Maholm was duly impressed; he cut down the Cubbies in order again.
In fact, he retired the first 13 batters he faced; Maholm didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, when Soriano doubled off the center field ivy with one away, a ball that barely eluded McCutch. Lou Montanez legged out an infield bleeder, but Maholm got a strikeout and fly ball to shut the door.
He was so good today that the Cubs wouldn't get another runner aboard until there were two out in the ninth, on another infield knock that ticked off Brandon Wood's glove.
The Bucs continued their onslaught. Overbay bombed his fifth of the season to straightaway center to open the sixth inning. Two batters later, Snyder swatted his second dinger of 2011 to left field.
McCutchen drilled his ninth home run in the top of the seventh, plating Jose Tabata, who had walked. The Pirates scored their final run on back-to-back doubles by Tabata and Jones in the top of the ninth. Every Pirate starter had a hit and either scored or drove in a run.
Maholm threw a three hitter with 4 K's and only tossed 91 pitches; his opponent, Randy Wells, threw 92 pitches in four innings. PM's 2-7 - with an ERA of 3.14. It was his third career complete game shutout.
Jeff Karstens will try for the sweep tomorrow afternoon against Ryan Dempster.
-- Today was the first time the Pirates hit four homers in a nine-inning game since smacking five long balls against Milwaukee on July 22nd, 2009. (The last prior 4-HR outburst was June 14th, 2008 at Baltimore.)
They also added three doubles; seven of their ten hits went for extra bases.
-- Today also marked the first time since 2008 that the Bucs have won four straight road games.
-- Neil Walker has hit safely in all 14 of his career games against Chicago.
-- The only bad news today was that Steve Pearce left the game in the fourth inning with soreness in his right calf. He's day-to-day; let's hope it's not a repeat of last season's injury parade.
-- Zach Duke threw seven innings of shutout ball in his initial start for Arizona tonight, giving up three hits, walking one and whiffing four. To boot, he hit his first MLB homer, a three run shot, to led the D-Backs to an 11-3 romp over Houston.