Pirates-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping to show they're far from done in the playoff chase following their first win in 10 days.

After snapping their longest losing streak of the season, the Pirates try to start getting on a bit of a roll Sunday as they continue a four-game set against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Having dropped four straight to Chicago (57-88) and seven in a row overall, Pittsburgh (73-71) finally pulled out a much-needed 7-6 victory Saturday. The Pirates nearly blew a three-run, ninth-inning lead before Joel Hanrahan struck out Dave Sappelt with the bases loaded to end the game.

"It's obviously not how we write it up, especially with a seven-game losing streak, you want to go out there and have it go smooth," Hanrahan said. "Being here in Chicago, dinner isn't good until about 6 o'clock anyway, so keep us around a little bit."

Pittsburgh hit .204 during its skid but showed some signs of coming around Saturday. Andrew McCutchen hit his second homer in as many days and fourth in six games while Clint Barmes also went deep for the Pirates, who went 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.

"If it was about everybody's comfort, you'd choose to do it differently," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose team had the NL's second wild-card spot four weeks ago but now trails St. Louis and Los Angeles for that position.

"Usually when you push through something like we're going through right now, it's gonna take some drama, and it's gonna take some wherewithal, and some confidence and some grit. It was enough today to get us out of the direction we were headed in and headed in a new direction."

While McCutchen is batting .414 with five homers and 24 runs scored in his last 24 games at Wrigley, he's 2 for 11 against Cubs scheduled starter Chris Volstad (3-10, 5.99 ERA). The right-hander has held his own following a 24-start winless stretch, going 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA over his last four outings.

Volstad overcame a career worst-tying five walks Monday, giving up one run and four hits over five innings of a 4-1 victory at Houston.

"I feel good," he said. "I've just got to continue it and keep it going - that whole consistency thing."

Volstad hasn't faced the Pirates this year but went 2-2 with a 7.45 ERA over four career starts against them while with the Marlins. He'll need to be wary of Pedro Alvarez, who has gone 5 for 7 with a homer in their matchups.

Pittsburgh turns to Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.11), who has been plagued by the long ball in two outings since joining the rotation. The left-hander yielded five runs - including a three-run homer - over five innings in a 5-1 loss to Houston on Sept. 3, then served up solo shots to Anthony Recker and Josh Vitters last Sunday in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs.

Aside from those mistakes, Locke pitched well, surrendering two runs and no walks while striking out six over six innings.

"You don't get a whole lot of get-out-of-jail-free cards here (in the majors)," he said. "You make bad pitches, hitters are going capitalize, and that happened (last Sunday) and that's what happened (the week before). They say solo homers never hurt you - but multiple ones, that adds up."

Locke is 0-4 with a 6.18 ERA over six career starts, including four last September.

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