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Hammel strong, but gets no support in 2-1 Cubs’ loss

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Updated: June 22, 2014 8:11PM

Close games continue to be a norm for the Cubs, and a ­frustration.

Their 2-1 loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Pirates was their 13th in 20 such contests and left starter Jason Hammel on the short end, even though he allowed just two runs in seven innings.

“There’s great character on this club,’’ said Hammel (6-5), who saw his three-game home winning streak come to an end. “We play a lot of close ballgames. It’s a matter of learning how to win the one-run games and that’s what will make this team a winner.’’

Hammel gave up two runs in the third, the first on Travis Snider’s leadoff home run and the other when Josh Harrison’s single drove in Chris Stewart, who had walked.

Hammel allowed six hits in his seven-inning stint, striking out six and walking one. He already has faced the Pirates four times, going 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA.

“I’d like to see some different colors,’’ he said. “I’m sure they’re tired of seeing me too.’’

The Cubs had only two singles off Pirates starter Brandon Cumpton (3-2), who also worked seven innings.

“Cumpton at times can get out of whack, but tip your hat to him today,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.

The Cubs squandered a scoring chance in the eighth when pinch hitter Junior Lake reached on a bunt and Darwin Barney followed with a single off reliever Tony Watson. Travis Wood came in as a pinch hitter to advance the runners on a sacrifice, but pinch hitters Welington Castillo and Justin Ruggiano struck out.

The lone Cubs’ run came in the ninth when Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro singled off Mark Melancon (12th save). Rizzo scored when Nate Schierholtz hit into a fielder’s choice.

“To get two runners on [in the eighth and ninth] and not capitalize is frustrating, but that’s baseball,’’ Rizzo said. “Cumpton was hitting his spots, and when pitchers do that, it’s tough to hit them.’’

The Cubs’ bullpen ­delivered two scoreless and hitless innings.

“They worked through a little traffic [Neil Ramirez walking two in the eighth], but they gave us a chance,’’ Renteria said. “I’m proud of these guys because this is a good division. We didn’t lay down. We just fell short.’’

Castillo back

Castillo returned from the disabled list after missing 20 days with inflammation in his left rib cage. Eli Whiteside, who had played eight games during Castillo’s absence, was designated for assignment.

Renteria said he hopes Whiteside, 34, would remain in the organization.

“Eli has done a nice job for us,’’ Renteria said. “From a very selfish standpoint for the organization, I hope he clears waivers.’

The Cubs also made a procedural move, taking the contract of Class AAA left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and then optioning him back to Iowa. The move put the team’s 40-man roster at 40.

Hit parade

— Rizzo has hit safely in 10 of his 13 games against the Pirates (16-for-49, .327).

◆ — Barney has hit safely in his last four games.

◆ — The Cubs failed to hit a home run, ending an eight-game streak.

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