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W:J.Samardzija(9-13) L:J.Grilli(1-5)
HR: CHC- A.Soriano (27) PIT- None

National League Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, September 8th (All times Eastern)

Chicago Cubs (52-86) at Pittsburgh Pirates (72-65), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Chicago - Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 3.91) Pittsburgh - James McDonald (12-7, 3.90)

(Sports Network) - Right-hander James McDonald tries again to return to first- half consistency tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Chicago Cubs in the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park.

The 27-year-old Californian was 9-2 at the All-Star break and picked up his 10th victory on July 18, but has won just twice in eight starts since while his earned run average has climbed from under three (2.93) to nearly four (3.90).

He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and was touched for seven earned runs in his most recent outing, dropping a 12-8 decision at Milwaukee to fall to 12-7 on the season.

One start earlier, he tossed seven strong innings of scoreless two-hit ball while toppling St. Louis, 9-0.

He's alternated wins and losses in his last four starts, beating the Cardinals twice while losing to the Brewers and the San Diego Padres.

He allowed five runs in six innings when last opposing the Cubs and dropped a 5-1 verdict in Pittsburgh on July 24. Lifetime against Chicago, he's 0-2 in five appearances with a 5.33 ERA.

A 12-2 loss in Friday's opener has the Pirates 1 1/2 games out of the National League's second wild card playoff berth, now held by the Cardinals. Pittsburgh is tied with Los Angeles in the race.

The Cubs go with righty Jeff Samardzija, who tries to snap a winless drought that stretches back to Aug. 13.

He's 0-3 in four starts since defeating Houston, and has subsequently gone 0-3 and allowed 11 runs in 26 hits in 26 innings, while his ERA has actually dropped from 4.06 to 3.91.

He's 2-0 in 12 career meetings with the Pirates, including an eight-inning gem on July 23 in which he allowed two hits and struck out five in a 2-0 victory.

The Cubs are 5-5 in Samardzija's last 10 starts.

On Friday, Starlin Castro went 3-for-5 with four RBI and a run scored and Chicago took advantage of seven errors from Pittsburgh.

Alfonso Soriano had three hits, three RBI and a run scored while Luis Valbuena added two RBI and two runs scored for the Cubs, who snapped an eight-game road losing streak.

Travis Wood (5-11) gave up just one hit and three walks along with five strikeouts in six innings of work as he won for the first time since July 6. He was 0-8 in his previous 10 starts.

"It was nice to come here against one of the better teams in the National League and put together a game like this," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "We haven't had many of those and with the young guys we have here, that's a huge boost to their confidence."

Michael McKenry and Starling Marte each drove in a run for the Pirates, who saw a two-game win streak come to an end and committed their most errors in one game since September 1985. The Buccos have dropped five of seven.

A.J. Burnett (15-6), who came into the game with a 6-0 record in seven starts against the Cubs in his career, was touched for seven runs -- three earned -- on eight hits in five-plus innings of work.

"I've never been part of a game with seven errors," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "None of the guys in here are proud of that and it stings to have it happen to you."

The Pirates won six of the first nine games between the teams this season, including two of three in a series at Wrigley Field from July 30-Aug. 1. The teams split 16 games in 2011.

09/08 10:39:40 ET