James McDonald surrendered two home runs in six innings of work and Paul Maholm came back to haunt his old club as Chicago defeated Pittsburgh 5-1 Tuesday night.
The trouble started early for J-Mac. After retiring the first batter of the game, Starlin Castro skied a home run to centerfield to open up an early 1-0 lead.
“He hit a bad pitch but he still hit it,” McDonald said of the homer. “It’s not easy to hit home runs. I tip my hat to him.”
McDonald seem to settle after the blast, mowing down the next 12 Cub batters before he again experience turbulence in the fifth inning.
It took three innings, but the Pirates eventually responded when Garrett Jones belted his 14th home run of the year to tie the game at one.
Bryan LaHair promptly flied out to center field to begin the fifth inning but Geovany Soto followed with a walk and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Pittsburgh managed to squeeze an out in before Luis Valbuena was intentionally walked in preparation for an easy out on Maholm. Only the out wasn’t easy.
Maholm was awarded first base by way of balls—McDonald’s third walk of the inning. With the bases loaded, David Dejesus ripped a line drive to right field for a two-RBI double. Castro spared the Pirates further damage when he grounded out to end the inning.
“James was better than he [has been previously],” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said of McDonald’s outing. “He would like to have a couple pitches back, but it was much cleaner than before. It was the James we saw in the first half of the season. They just took advantage of the mistakes he made.”
Pittsburgh followed the two-run half-inning with three consecutive outs. Through five innings, Maholm put out 15 of 17 batters.
“Paul is capable of getting outs. He pitched effectively tonight,” Hurdle said of Maholm. “It remindes us that this isn’t going to be easy. We have to find a way to scratch out some more hits and wins when pitchers are throwing effectively. We have to match up and continue to work.”
Anthony Rizzo kicked off the sixth frame with a single and immediately stole second base. He would reach home on the next Cubs at-bat.
After driving in both of Chicago’s runs last night, Alfonso Soriano roughed up the Pirates again with a two-run home run to extend the Cubs lead to 5-1. The blast marked Soriano’s third consecutive extra-base hit against the Pirates. He also entered the game with the fifth most home runs in the MLB since May 15. The two-run dinger was his 19th of the season.
“I had decent command tonight, they just hit the ball when they needed to,” McDonald said. “I gave it everything I had and I had good stuff. They just got me.”
The Pirates finally recorded their second hit of the game in the seventh inning when Casey McGehee reached on a single. Pedro Alvarez made things interesting with a single of his own before Rod Barajas flied out to end the threat and the inning.
Pittsburgh again attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning when Neil Walker doubled and Andrew McCutchen walked to first base. The comeback would fall short though, after Jones flied out and McGehee hit into a double play.
The two teams will conclude the series tomorrow afternoon at 12:35 when Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia (7-6, 4.31 ERA) takes on Chicago’s Ryan Dempster (5-4, 2.11 ERA).