Cubs don’t look like losers in 4-3 defeat of Pirates in 11
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 7, 2013 9:11PM
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Updated: July 8, 2013 3:06PM
Don’t tell the Cubs they’re about to be broken up and left for history as one more step in another rebuilding saga.
Not after Sunday, when 19 of the 25 played a role in an 11-inning, 4-3 victory against the National League’s best team, taking another series in the process.
‘‘We have a better team than our record shows,’’ said Carlos Villanueva, who pitched the first four innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates. ‘‘We really do believe that. We’ve lost some heartbreaking games. We’re in a tough division and that kind of gets overlooked. But it’s important to us to keep playing well leading into the All-Star break.’’
They have done that in the last three weeks, going 12-10 through a long stretch on the road and then in a three-game series at home against the Pirates, who lead the NL as well as the Central Division.
The Cubs won the weekend series, their fifth series win in the last seven, and handed the Pirates their first back-to-back losses since June 3-5, when they lost three straight in Atlanta.
How the Cubs won it Sunday was significant for them — picking up closer Kevin Gregg after he was one strike from his 16th save. Instead, Sterling Marte hit a two-out, 3-2 pitch over the left-center-field wall. It was only the second blown save for Gregg and the only bad pitch from a bullpen corps of six who allowed only two runs through seven innings.
‘‘He’s been outstanding for us, so sometimes you have to pick him up,’’ said Villanueva, who is transitioning back to a starter’s role.
‘‘You do what you can to try to get outs and get a win,’’ said new Cub Matt Guerrier, who got the victory after pitching two innings for a second straight day. ‘‘It’s nice to get a new start and a chance to pitch. And it’s always nice to beat the team on top.’’
Gregg was poised to make Scott Hairston a hero for hitting a pinch-hit homer off Tony Watson with two outs in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie. It was Hairston’s 10th career pinch-hit homer but his eighth for the Cubs in only 98 at-bats.
Dioner Navarro’s sacrifice fly off Bryan Morris (4-3) to bring home Anthony Rizzo in the 11th gave the Cubs their third walk-off victory of the season.
‘‘Ninety percent of the time when you pinch-hit, it’s a key situation,’’ said Navarro, who is hitting .429 as a pinch hitter and has two homers and four RBI in the role. ‘‘I love the challenge every time I get the opportunity.’’
Rizzo was in scoring position after he and Alfonso Soriano singled because Pirates catcher Russell Martin made an errant pick-off throw to second base. It was as unexpected as the error committed by Cubs Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney in the 10th, ending his string of 74 errorless games dating to last Sept. 30.
Barney was playing in shallow right field with a shift on Garrett Jones when the ground ball kicked up from the infield lip off his hand.
But Barney started a double play on the next play and finished the inning throwing out Martin on a ball that ricocheted off Guerrier.
‘‘Collectively, it was a team win, and to take two out of three against a team like Pittsburgh, you have to feel good about that,’’ Hairston said.