PITTSBURGH (AP) - Kevin Correia didn't have his best stuff on a night when it might have gotten the Pittsburgh Pirates into first place.
Correia couldn't make it out of the fourth inning, and Pittsburgh lost 6-3 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night. A win by the Pirates would have lifted them into a three-way tie for first place in the National League Central.
``It was one of those nights when you made a good pitch, they put the bat on the ball and got a hit, and when you didn't, they took advantage of it,' Correia said. ``It was that kind of double-edged sword.
``Just one of those nights.'
Correia (11-7) had a chance to tie Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens and the Yankees' CC Sabathia for the majors' lead in victories with 12. But he labored through his shortest start of the season, allowing five runs on nine hits in 3 2-3 innings.
Correia had won his previous two starts this season against the Cubs and cited the fact Chicago was seeing him for the third time in about three months as a reason for their success against him.
``Once he got behind in the count, I don't think he had the command he needed to have,' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Chicago's Ryan Dempster won for the first time in five starts despite arguing with manager Mike Quade after he was lifted after five innings. Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol combined to throw four scoreless innings to close out the Cubs' victory, their second in their past eight at PNC Park.
A night after blowing his sixth save, Marmol pitched the ninth for his 19th save of the season.
Starlin Castro went 3 for 5 with a run and an RBI for the Cubs.
Matt Diaz entered the game in the fourth and had two doubles and two RBIs for Pittsburgh, which needed a win and a loss by the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday to move into a tie for the division lead.
It's only early July, but for a team that has suffered through 18 consecutive losing seasons and lost 105 games last year, that would have been heady stuff.
The Pirates are starting to make inroads in a sports market that usually only turns its attention to them when the Steelers and Penguins are out of season or not making news. The crowd of 39,235 Saturday - buoyed by a popular postgame concert and fireworks and laser show - was the 10th sellout of the season at PNC Park, the most since the ballpark's inaugural season in 2001.
Correia didn't give Pittsburgh much of a chance Saturday. He walked the leadoff batter of the game and allowed at least a run in each of the four innings in which he pitched.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Marlon Byrd and a wild pitch by Correia that scored Castro. Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano and Castro had RBI singles the following three innings.
Fukudome had two hits and two runs, Pena had two hits, a run and an RBI and Barney went 2 for 4 with two runs for the Cubs.
Pirates rookies Alex Presley and Michael McKenry each had two hits and scored a run.
Presley scored on Neil Walker's groundout in the bottom of the third, and Diaz hit a ground-rule double down the right-field line that scored Garrett Jones and McKenry in the fourth.
Dempster (6-6) was pitching on nine days' rest after being scratched from his scheduled start Monday because of back pain. He was cleared to start Saturday after making it through a pregame workout Friday without incident.
He allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings and was seen throwing equipment and arguing vehemently with Quade when he was pinch-hit for to lead off the sixth.
``He wants to keep pitching, but I have to take into account what I saw and what I've got available and where we're at,' Quade said. ``Whether it's his physical condition and everything else. He's interested in winning games for the team, and that's what I want.
``I'm thinking about a million things, including how he's going to recover from this and everything else.'
Quade, Dempster and the rest of the Cubs played coy about the incident after the game, Chicago's second win in three days.
``I was just mad that with my sore back, I didn't get a tee time at Oakmont (Country Club) while I was here, and it probably just came out after the fifth inning there,' Dempster quipped.
``We won the game, and that's all that matters,' Dempster added. ``So I think anyone who's competitive, you always want to be out there. But at the end of the day, getting W's is all that matters.'
Dempster said he was most upset about the fact that the already-depleted bullpen was to be taxed further because of the fact he didn't go deeper into the game.
Blowups from Cubs starting pitchers have become commonplace in recent years - but most of the time, it's volatile Carlos Zambrano throwing the tantrum.
``I see both sides,' catcher Koyie Hill said. ``We're trying to win ballgames.
``(Quade) is trying to protect his pitcher, and the pitcher's trying to protect his bullpen.'
Notes: Before the game, Quade said the Cubs will open the second half of the season's first three games with a rotation of RHP Matt Garza, Dempster and Zambrano. ... During the fourth inning, the Pirates announced on the jumbotron that OF Andrew McCutchen was named to the NL All-star team, drawing an ovation and a curtain call. McCutchen will replace injured Brewers OF Ryan Braun.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved