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By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of yet another disappointing season.  Coming into tonight’s game with a 44-65 record, the Cubbies were 16.5 games out of first place, mainly due to their horrendously inconsistent starting pitching.  Despite their pitching woes, their offense has quite a bit of power bats in the lineup, and that was evident tonight, as they tattooed the Pirates with 21 hits, including six homeruns, on their way to an 11-5 rout at PNC Park.
Kevin Correia, who was coming into the game looking for his 13th victory, continued his hideous pitching at PNC Park, failing to make it out of the third inning.  His on-mound opponent, Randy Wells, who is having a pretty rough year of his own, held the Pirates in check after a shaky first inning.  The Cubs’ right-hander gave up just two runs on five hits through six innings, walking only one while striking out seven batters.
The Cubs jumped on Correia and the Pirates right away tonight.  In the top of the first inning, Starlin Castro led off with a single, and stole second base to put a runner on scoring position with no outs.  After Darwin Barney singled, putting runners at the corners, Aramis Ramirez smacked a broken-bat single to left, scoring Castro, giving the Cubs an early 1-0 advantage.
Pittsburgh jumped on Wells right away as well.  After Andrew McCutchen singled and moved to second on catcher Geovany Soto’s throwing error, Garrett Jones hammered a full-count homerun to deep right center, giving the Bucs a 2-1 lead.  Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long.
Correia continued to struggle in the second frame.  After striking out Alfonso Soriano to begin the inning, the Pirates’ starter was tagged for four runs, including a three-run homerun by Ramirez.  But the highlight of the inning came off the unlikely bat of Tyler Colvin, who blasted a solo homerun out of PNC Park, one-bouncing into the river.  It was only the 29th ball in the history of PNC Park to end up in the Allegheny.  The Cubs owned a 5-2 lead after two, but it would only get worse from there.
Soto and Soriano would hit back-to-back homeruns in the third inning to end Correia’s evening.  Soto’s was a two-run shot, which scored Marlyn Byrd.  Alfonso’s blast, which traveled an estimated 440 feet, was the nail in the coffin for Correia.  He lasted just two innings, giving up eight runs on ten hits, inflating his ERA to 4.71.  The Pirates trailed 8-2 after a long and torturing top of the third inning.
Soriano was back at it again in the fourth, blasting his second homerun of the game, two batters after Byrd hit a solo shot of his own.  The Cubs continued their relentless attack on Pirates’ pitching, widening the lead to 10-2.
Castro added an RBI single in the seventh to give the Cubs an 11-2 lead.  It was his third knock of the game.  He, along with Barney, led the Cubs with a trio of hits a piece, while Ramirez led the charge with four RBI’s along with Soriano’s pair of solo homeruns.
The Pirates added three runs in the eighth inning and one in the ninth to make the score look a little more respectable.  Jones hit his second homerun of the game, and Brandon Wood hit a pinch-hit two run homerun, scoring Neil Walker.  Jones’ sacrifice fly in the ninth closed the gap slightly to 11-6.  G.I. Jones had four RBI’s on the night, one of the very few bright spots for Pittsburgh.
Obviously, this was a disastrous game for Correia and the pitching staff.  But what may be overlooked is that the Pirates’ offense, once again, struggled to score runs.  While they did score six runs, something of a rarity for the offense, four of the runs were scored at a point where the game was already out of hand.
This is clearly a game that the Pirates need to forget about quickly.  The term “must-win” is widely overused in sports, but it applies for the next two games against the Cubs.  Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose this series to Chicago, they can’t afford to drop any more games back of the Milwaukee Brewers, and mentally, they can’t drop below that .500 mark that has eluded the team for almost twenty years.
The Bucs will turn to Charlie Morton to turn things around and half the team’s current five-game losing streak.  After using seven pitchers in tonight’s game, Pittsburgh will need a strong performance from their starting pitcher.  Chuck will be looking for his ninth win of the season as he faces off against the Cubs’ Matt Garza.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Record Vs. Cubs: 6-5
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 25-18
Home Record: 26-27
Overall Record: 54-54