Pittsburgh beats Chicago in 11; first sweep of Cubs since 1999

The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay are among the few Pittsburgh Pirates with something tangible to achieve in September. They hope it’s not too long until the entire club is playing for something in the final full month of the season.

Sanchez’s second two-run single of the game finished off Pittsburgh’s three-run rally in the 11th inning and the Pirates withstood 20 hits to beat the Chicago Cubs 10-9 Wednesday and sweep their series.

Michael Barrett’s run-scoring single and Ronny Cedeno’s sacrifice fly off Marty McLeary (1-0) put the Cubs up 9-7 in the top of the inning. But Jose Castillo’s fourth hit, an RBI single, got the Pirates to within a run and Sanchez won it with a pop-fly single down the right field line against Ryan Dempster (1-7).

Sanchez is the NL batting leader with a .347 average, and is better still in clutch situations with a .423 average (52-for-123) with runners in scoring position.

“You don’t want anyone else up there,” said Xavier Nady, whose third hit of the game started the rally. “He’s been awesome in those situations.”

Sanchez insists he doesn’t do anything differently at the plate when he has a chance to keep a rally going or win a game.

“That’s the situation you want to be in,” Sanchez said. “Everybody did their part there. All I did was come up with the bases loaded, and you just try to be confident in those situations.”

Before getting his single, Sanchez hit a roller down the line that first baseman Derrek Lee argued was fair. TV replays appeared to show it crossing the foul line before reaching the bag.

“If it was fair, that would have been the game,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It seems like razor thin always cuts us.”

The Pirates also had 20 hits in completing their first three-game sweep of the Cubs since 2000 and first in Pittsburgh since April 9-11, 1999. The Pirates also dodged their 82nd loss, which would ensure them of a 14th consecutive losing season. The Phillies set the major league record with 16 in a row from 1933-48.

Still, Bay sees some positive signs in a Pirates team that is 23-21 since the All-Star break after being 30 games under .500 before it.

The Pirates also are 9-2 in one-run games after having a major league-worst 25 such losses at the break.

“We do believe now we can pull it out, instead of hoping we can pull it out,” said Bay, who is one homer away from joining Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner as the only Pirates right-handed hitters with consecutive 30-homer seasons. “Maybe we can stay on a little roll and carry it into September.”

Bay had three hits as the Pirates closed to within 1 1/2 games of overtaking the Cubs for fifth place in the NL Central. The Pirates have been in last place since starting 0-6, but the Cubs went 11-17 in August.

In the second 11-inning game between the NL’s two worst teams in less than 24 hours, the Cubs tied it at 7 in the eighth on Ryan Theriot’s career-high fifth hit. Jones had four hits, while Matt Murton and Cedeno each drove in two runs.