(Sports Network) - Right-hander James McDonald tries again to return to first-
half consistency tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Chicago Cubs in
the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park.
The 27-year-old Californian was 9-2 at the All-Star break and picked up his
10th victory on July 18, but has won just twice in eight starts since while
his earned run average has climbed from under three (2.93) to nearly four
He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and was touched for seven earned runs in his most
recent outing, dropping a 12-8 decision at Milwaukee to fall to 12-7 on the
One start earlier, he tossed seven strong innings of scoreless two-hit ball
while toppling St. Louis, 9-0.
He's alternated wins and losses in his last four starts, beating the Cardinals
twice while losing to the Brewers and the San Diego Padres.
He allowed five runs in six innings when last opposing the Cubs and dropped a
5-1 verdict in Pittsburgh on July 24. Lifetime against Chicago, he's 0-2 in
five appearances with a 5.33 ERA.
A 12-2 loss in Friday's opener has the Pirates 1 1/2 games out of the National
League's second wild card playoff berth, now held by the Cardinals. Pittsburgh
is tied with Los Angeles in the race.
The Cubs go with righty Jeff Samardzija, who tries to snap a winless drought
that stretches back to Aug. 13.
He's 0-3 in four starts since defeating Houston, and has subsequently gone 0-3
and allowed 11 runs in 26 hits in 26 innings, while his ERA has actually
dropped from 4.06 to 3.91.
He's 2-0 in 12 career meetings with the Pirates, including an eight-inning gem
on July 23 in which he allowed two hits and struck out five in a 2-0 victory.
The Cubs are 5-5 in Samardzija's last 10 starts.
On Friday, Starlin Castro went 3-for-5 with four RBI and a run scored and
Chicago took advantage of seven errors from Pittsburgh.
Alfonso Soriano had three hits, three RBI and a run scored while Luis Valbuena
added two RBI and two runs scored for the Cubs, who snapped an eight-game road
Travis Wood (5-11) gave up just one hit and three walks along with five
strikeouts in six innings of work as he won for the first time since July 6.
He was 0-8 in his previous 10 starts.
"It was nice to come here against one of the better teams in the National
League and put together a game like this," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said.
"We haven't had many of those and with the young guys we have here, that's a
huge boost to their confidence."
Michael McKenry and Starling Marte each drove in a run for the Pirates, who
saw a two-game win streak come to an end and committed their most errors in
one game since September 1985. The Buccos have dropped five of seven.
A.J. Burnett (15-6), who came into the game with a 6-0 record in seven starts
against the Cubs in his career, was touched for seven runs -- three earned --
on eight hits in five-plus innings of work.
"I've never been part of a game with seven errors," Pittsburgh manager Clint
Hurdle said. "None of the guys in here are proud of that and it stings to have
it happen to you."
The Pirates won six of the first nine games between the teams this season,
including two of three in a series at Wrigley Field from July 30-Aug. 1. The
teams split 16 games in 2011.
The Sports Network