Cubs' losing streak hits 10 in 1-0 loss to Pirates
By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH (AP) Ryan Dempster doesn't pitch like a guy who hasn't won a game since last August.
Problem is, Dempster's team continues to hit like one that hasn't won a game in nearly two weeks.
Dempster (0-3) allowed just one run over 7 1-3 sparkling innings but couldn't prevent the Cubs from falling 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, extending their losing streak to 10.
"It's hard for us - 10 games in a row is not a lot of fun," Dempster said. "It doesn't make coming to the ballpark fun, it doesn't make going out there and playing fun. We've just got to fight through it."
The Cubs certainly had their chances, collecting 10 hits and putting runners in scoring position in all but two innings. Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett and the National League's best bullpen escaped thanks to a couple of defensive gems and Chicago's inability to cash in. The Cubs left 11 runners on base and went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
"I'm a little lost for words now," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "It's kind of the same thing. But guys are battling, having decent, good at-bats - just not finalizing it, really. A lot of good at-bats, just not getting it done."
Dempster remains winless since last August, mainly due to lack of run support. The Cubs have scored 16 runs for Dempster this season and have scored one run or less in 11 of his 17 starts since his last victory.
"He once again pitched a gem and got nothing to show for it," Sveum said of his ace.
The Cubs started the season 13-11 but have sunk to the bottom of the NL Central thanks to an offense that has stopped producing. They have scored just four runs in their last 56 innings.
Pittsburgh's offense wasn't much better than Chicago's but only needed Rod Barajas' RBI-single in the second inning to snap a modest two-game skid.
Burnett (3-2) lacked Dempster's efficiency but won his second straight start, striking out six and walking two over 5 1-3 innings. Joel Hanrahan survived a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth for his 11th save.
"The defense was big," Burnett said. "They saved a couple of them and I was able to find my hook for a batter or two."
Burnett needed 105 pitches to get 16 outs and took advantage of some nifty glovework by third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who saved at least one run in the fifth by making a diving stab at a sharp grounder by Joe Mather then fired to first to nip the runner.
"I try to be ready every time on defense and anticipate the ball being hit to me," Alvarez said. "Like I've said before, I take a lot of pride in my defense."
Chicago threatened again an inning later only to run itself out of a two-on, one-out situation when Alfonso Soriano crashed into Alvarez trying to move from second to third on a groundball by Darwin Barney. Soriano was called out due to runners' interference and reliever Jared Hughes got Koyle Hill to ground meekly to second to end the threat.
The Cubs started to run out of opportunities once the Pirates got to their bullpen, which leads the National League in ERA. Jason Grilli struck out the side in the seventh, Juan Cruz picked off Chicago's Tony Campana at second base to cut short a rally in the eighth before Hanrahan took over in the ninth.
"Runners on the corners, you're thinking `How you going to get out of it?'" Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "(Hanrahan) showed you how to get out, you get ahead and throw strikes."
NOTES: Pittsburgh RF Josh Harrison went 1 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games ... Chicago reliever Carlos Marmol could be activated off the DL on Monday. Marmol hasn't pitched since May 11 due to a strained right hamstring ... Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens will start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday as he continues to rehab from a right shoulder inflammation ... The series continues Saturday, with Chicago's Paul Maholm (4-3, 4.73 ERA) facing Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.50). Maholm spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Pirates before signing with the Cubs during the offseason.
Updated May 25, 2012