CHICAGO (AP) - Good friends are gone, and the way Jeff Baker sees it, the Chicago Cubs have no one to blame but themselves.
Performances like this are what led to the shakeup.
Michael McKenry and Starling Marte homered to back a strong start by Jeff Karstens, and the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled away to beat the Cubs 8-4 on Wednesday.
``We put ourselves in this situation when we got off to a slow start and didn't play well,' Baker said. ``No one in baseball is going to feel sorry for us. I still believe in the guys in the room.'
The question is: Which guys does management believe in?
The Cubs are in a major rebuilding mode and a long way from contention, which is right where the Pirates are.
Garrett Jones had two hits and drove in three runs after entering in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen chipped in with two hits and scored three times, and the Pirates broke this one open late. They rebounded from a lopsided loss on Monday to take two of three from the Cubs. Now, after a day off, they'll head to Cincinnati for a three-game series with the NL Central-leading Reds.
The Pirates were leading 2-1 going into the eighth when this one got out of hand. They started the onslaught with seven straight hits against Shawn Camp and sent 10 batters to the plate in a five-run outburst.
Jones, batting for Gaby Sanchez, drove in two with a single and McKenry made it 7-1 with a three-run drive to left - his 10th homer.
That late burst aside, it was a rather quiet day at Wrigley Field after a wild one on Tuesday. Not only did the Cubs trade pitcher Ryan Dempster to Texas before the non-waiver deadline, A.J. Burnett tossed a one-hitter for Pittsburgh.
Karstens (4-2) wasn't quite as dominant, but he sure was good. He allowed three hits and one run over five innings, striking out four and walking one.
He settled down after Starlin Castro's solo homer to left in the first and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
Travis Wood (4-7) was a tough-luck loser and dropped his fourth straight start after winning four in a row. He gave up two runs and three hits over five innings, but two plays in the third cost him.
First, he gave up a leadoff homer to Marte. Then, the left-hander balked in another run to make it 2-1.
Otherwise, Wood pitched well enough, but the Cubs couldn't get anything going until the ninth. The Pirates brought in closer Joel Hanrahan with an 8-1 lead and he gave up three runs, including a two-run homer by Welington Castillo, but the game was well at hand after Camp got knocked around.
``Camp's been really good this year,' he said. ``We just hung in there with him and got the barrel on the ball. We found some holes and blew it open a little bit.'
The question for the Cubs is: Where do they go from here? Besides dealing Dempster, they also traded starter Paul Maholm, outfielder Reed Johnson and catcher Geovany Soto in a 24-hour span.
Now, they're trying to figure out which players will fit their longterm plans, and that includes Wood.
``I took a stride today,' Wood said. ``Even though I didn't go deep into the ballgame and threw a lot of pitches (98), I felt I like I kept them off balance, was able to get some outs and keep our team in the ballgame.'
NOTES: Sanchez started at first and was 0 for 2 with a walk in his Pirates debut. He was acquired from Florida before Tuesday's trade deadline and was looking forward to a fresh start. ``I think it will be good coming over here,' said Sanchez, who entered with a .202 batting average. ``A relaxed coaching staff. A relaxed team. Everybody wants to have fun.' The past few days have been eventful for Sanchez. Along with the trade there was the birth of his daughter on Friday. ... The Pirates optioned pitcher Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room on the roster for reliever Chad Qualls. ... Chicago optioned RHP Casey Coleman to Triple-A Iowa and recalled right-handers Chris Volstad and Alberto Cabrera from the minor league club. Volstad and Cabrera were available out of the bullpen, although Volstad could fill a hole in the rotation. ... The Cubs held 2B Darwin Barney out of the lineup after he got hit in the helmet by a pitch from Burnett in the eighth on Tuesday. ``I don't think it's anything major, but obviously, he got hit in the head,' manager Dale Sveum said. ``There was some ringing in his ear, but he's fine today.' ... Baker, starting for Barney, came up clutching his glove hand after he dove on the right-field grass to stop leadoff single in the seventh but stayed in the game. ``No one really likes to roll up over their wrist,' said Baker, who stayed in the game. ``When I first did it, it kind of grabbed a little bit and was pretty stiff there, but it got better as it went on.' Baker had two hits and a career-high two steals.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved