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Pirates 7, Cubs 6

I don't usually post game recaps, but I'll post one today because this game was especially interesting. After Paul Maholm struggled to throw strikes in the second and gave up a couple of hits in the third and a few more in the fifh, the Pirates capitalized on some bad fielding by Carlos Zambrano, who botched two potential double plays, to make the score 4-3, Cubs.

Jim Tracy then sent Marty McLeary to a major-league mound for the first time in nearly two years, even though the game was on the line. (At one point, both McLeary and Brian Rogers were warming up in the pen, and I was hoping to see them both, but the three runs the Bucs scored in the bottom of the fifth probably kept Rogers out of the game. The Bucs have said they don't plan to use Rogers in high-leverage situations.)

McLeary wasn't horrible. His stuff is average - his main pitches are a pretty straight fastball that I believe he got up to 93, and a slider that comes in at around 85 but doesn't bend much. Like you'd expect from a journeyman who performed well against Class AAA hitters this year but has struggled in the majors, he mowed down the Class AAA hitters in the Cubs' lineup (Ryan Theriot, Zambrano, Juan Pierre and Freddie Bynum), then struggled a little against the Aramis Ramirez / Derrek Lee / Michael Barrett portion of the lineup that's actually good. After the Bucs had tied the game in the sixth, McLeary gave up an RBI double to Barrett.

In the 7th, Rajai Davis headed to the plate for McLeary and got his first major-league hit. He also scored as Freddy Sanchez came through with a two-out single, tying the game.

Sanchez, starting at shortstop, also started a key double play to end a Cubs rally in the ninth. Then he helped record the first out on a tough play against the first batter in the tenth. Sanchez really is a pretty decent shortstop; it's kind of a shame the Bucs are stuck with Jack Wilson there.

Matt Capps entered the game in the 11th, setting a record for Pirates rookie pitchers by appearing in his 72nd game of the season. He uncharacteristically walked the first batter he faced. He also would've walked Matt Murton later in the inning if Murton hadn't chased ball four. I'm a little concerned about Capps, mostly because of his number of appearances rather than by his performance, but he has also only struck out one batter in his last six appearances. He has also pitched on six days in the last eight. Capps allowed the go-ahead run (though it was charged to Damaso Marte). I certainly can't fault Tracy for that, but I really wonder whether he might have given Capps a couple of nights off instead, particularly with Jonah Bayliss still in the bullpen. I'd have rather seen Bayliss or someone else, even if it decreased the Bucs' chances of winning somewhat, in order to let Capps preserve his arm.

The Pirates started another rally in the bottom of the 11th - a rare Humberto Cota sighting resulted in a single that could've been a double if Cota had just kept running. Then, however, Ian Snell, pinch-running for Cota, took advantage of Juan Pierre's weak arm by alertly taking an extra base on an up-the-middle single by Jose Castillo. The Cubs then botched a third double-play on a grounder by Joe Randa, scoring Snell. The Cubs then intentionally walked Chris Duffy and then walked Jose Bautista to allow the winning run.

It was a fitting end to an exciting but extremely ugly game that featured five errors and three wild pitches. Thanks to some poor fielding by the Cubs, the Pirates put off clinching another losing season for at least one more day.