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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, May 25th (All times Eastern)

Chicago Cubs (15-29) at Pittsburgh Pirates (20-24), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Chicago - Ryan Dempster (0-2, 2.28) Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78)

(Sports Network) - Canadian-born righty Ryan Dempster stands between the Chicago Cubs and a double-digit losing streak tonight when they head to Pittsburgh to open a three-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park.

The Cubs, who sit last in the National League's Central Division, dropped their ninth game in a row on Wednesday in Houston, when Wandy Rodriguez pitched seven strong innings and J.D. Martinez went 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored as Houston wrapped up a three-game sweep with a 5-1 win.

Reed Johnson hit a home run for Chicago and starter Jeff Samardzija (4-3) gave up two runs on six hits over six innings to take the loss.

"It's a learning experience and we need to take everything that's going on right now and remember it in the long run," Samardzija said. "When we get in this situation again, we'll know how to get out of it."

Dempster, a veteran 526 major-league appearances overall, makes his 50th against the Pirates with his eighth start of 2012.

The 35-year-old has posted a stingy 2.28 earned run average and allowed a .211 opposition batting average through 47 1/3 innings, but the Cubs are just 1-6 in the games he's pitched and have been outscored, 27-18.

He dropped a 7-4 interleague verdict to the Chicago White Sox in his most recent start on May 19 at Wrigley Field, where he gave up a season-high four runs on seven hits in six innings.

In his initial six starts, Dempster had allowed just 10 runs.

He's 8-12 with nine saves, a hold and a complete game against the Pirates with a 5.57 ERA across 164 2/3 innings.

Pittsburgh, which sits five games ahead of Chicago in the Central, dropped its second straight game in the finale of a series with the visiting New York Mets on Wednesday, when Jon Niese pitched into the eighth inning and David Wright hit an RBI double in a 3-1 New York win.

Charlie Morton (2-5) was charged with three runs on eight hits over seven innings in the loss. Andrew McCutchen had an RBI single for the Pirates, but struck out with runners on second and third to end the eighth inning.

"I think it was a solid outing," Morton said. "Good and bad. You take the positives and you learn from the negatives."

Another 35-year-old righty, Arkansas native A.J. Burnett, makes his seventh start of the season and aims to stay unbeaten for his career against Chicago.

The veteran of 315 big-league starts is 4-0 with a 4.06 ERA in 31 innings against the Cubs, who've managed just 14 runs and 28 hits.

In 2012, Burnett is unbeaten in his last three outings, including a 4-3 interleague win at Detroit in his most recent start on May 19.

In that game, he gave up two runs on seven hits in six innings.

In the three-start streak, he's pitched 22 innings, allowed 19 hits and struck out 16 batters while allowing just six runs.

The Cubs and Pirates are meeting for the first time since splitting 16 meetings last year. Chicago went 5-2 in Pittsburgh in that span.

05/25 10:36:03 ET

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