CHICAGO (AP) - The Pirates have had plenty of success against the Cubs the last two seasons, but a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field remains elusive.
Aramis Ramirez ended a long home run drought, Ryan Dempster threw six solid innings and the Cubs avoided a three-game sweep with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
In the last 23 games against the Cubs, the Pirates are 16-7, but they have not been able to sweep the Cubs at Wrigley Field since May 5-7, 2000.
``We're not disappointed. We went out and played a ballgame and they played better than us. We won the series. That was the objective coming in,' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ``We'll move on. We had a chance to sweep, but we didn't sweep. We have to do things to win a game.'
Pittsburgh also had the opportunity to win five straight road games for the first time since May 13-26, 2004.
Ramirez's line drive solo shot in the second broke a streak of 155 at_bats without a home run, the second longest stretch of his career. Ramirez went 170 at_bats between homers from Aug. 2, 1998, until April 21, 2000.
``It seems like they always give us a tough time. They've got good pitching, good young players. But we should play better against them,' Ramirez said.
Dempster (4-4) recovered from a poor start to post his fifth quality start in his last six outings. After allowing two runs, a walk and Lyle Overbay's two-run double in the first inning, Dempster settled down to shut out the Pirates on four hits over the next five innings.
Dempster allowed four hits and two runs overall, striking out five and walking three. He beat the Pirates for first time in five starts dating to May 4, 2010.
``A few pitches got away from him in that first inning,' Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ``We've talked a little about him regrouping and getting himself back in tune with command of his pitches. After that first inning, he was able to do that. He's had a great May.'
The Cubs got three scoreless innings from their bullpen, one each from Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and closer Carlos Marmol, who earned his 10th save.
Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (3-4) allowed three runs - two earned - and struck out four over five innings. Karstens, who recently took the rotation spot of the injured Ross Ohelendorff, departed after throwing just 71 pitches.
The Cubs manufactured the go-ahead run in the third. Kosuke Fukudome led off with a double, went to third on Darwin Barney's sacrifice bunt and scored on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly.
Fukudome, who had two hits, entered the game leading the majors with a .411 home average.
Overbay walked and drove in both Pittsburgh runs with his two-run double in the first.
The game was delayed by 2 hours, 34 minutes at the start because of heavy rain. However, once the storm front cleared the Chicago area, it was a mild and pleasant afternoon.
The Cubs scored their first run in the second on the long-overdue homer run from Ramirez, who has averaged 28 each of his seven full seasons with the Cubs. Carlos Pena, who followed with a single, has reached base in 21 of his last 23 games.
Speedy Cubs rookie Tony Campana then hit a grounder to shortstop Ronny Cedeno and beat the throw, which skipped away from Overbay. Pena advanced to third on the play and Cedeno was charged with an error, snapping his 35-game errorless streak.
Pena scored on Koyie Hill's sacrifice fly to right. Pena beat the throw of Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones, but he slid into catcher Ryan Doumit. He was hurt on the play, leaving the game with what the Pirates called an injured left ankle.
Doumit will undergo an MRI in Pittsburgh on Monday.
``It's the nature of the beast, it's the nature of the position. I don't think I did anything different than I normally do, it's baseball,' Doumit said.
Hurdle did not rule out Doumit going on the disabled list along with infielder Steve Pearce, who aggravated a right calf muscle strain.
``We're going to evaluate. There is a chance we're going to make two moves. We're going to have to wait and see. We need to take our time and get the information, the correct information so we can make the right move for the people that are involved and the club,' said Hurdle.
Some familiar Cubs nemesis got the Pirates out to an early 2-0 lead.
Andrew McCutchen and Neal Walker drew back-to-back walks against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. Both scored on Overbay's double into the right-field corner.
McCutchen has now reached base safely in his last 21 games against the Cubs. Walker, who singled in the sixth, has hit safely in all 15 games he's played against Chicago in his career.
NOTES: C Geovany Soto returned to the Cubs' clubhouse after being activated off the DL. He hasn't played since May 10 because of a left groin strain. To make room for Soto, the Cubs optioned backup catcher Welington Castillo to Triple-A Iowa. Soto is expected to start in Monday's series opener against Houston. ... The Cubs placed CF Reed Johnson on the DL because of lower back spasms and recalled OF Brad Snyder from Iowa. The Cubs also had to clear space for Snyder on the team's 40-man roster, so they moved injured starter Andrew Cashner (right rotator cuff strain) to the 60-day disabled list.
The Associated Press News Service
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