CHICAGO — Starling Marte sprinted towards left-center field, quickly waved off Austin Meadows and slipped on the wet outfield grass while trying to catch a fly ball at Wrigley Field. The ball bounced towards the ivy-covered wall and put two Cubs in scoring position with no outs in the first inning.
One pitch later, the Cubs took a one-run lead. The other run scored two pitches after that. It was all they would need against a scuffling offense. The Pirates, using a reconstructed lineup with Josh Bell no longer batting cleanup, managed only one hit and had 19 retired in a row to complete a 2-0 loss to the first-place Cubs on Saturday afternoon.
It was the Pirates' 16th loss in their last 21 games, a stretch that began May 17 when they were atop the Central Division at eight games over .500. They've since fallen to 31-33, owning the fourth-worst record in the National League, as seemingly every bat in the lineup has gone cold over the past three weeks.