Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Cubs' playoff hopes fading in skid

The Associated Press

        PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh opened a 12-run lead in the third inning over the reeling Chicago Cubs as Aramis Ramirez homered and Craig Wilson drove in three runs, and the Pirates went on to a 13-1 romp Tuesday night.

        The Cubs followed up consecutive 7-6 losses to the Astros and Pirates with their fourth straight loss, one that further damaged their fast-fading playoff hopes. They began the night in third place in the NL wild card standings, 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis.

        The Cubs' second-half fall — they once led the NL Central by six games — has become a freefall with 10 losses in 14 games and 11 in 16.

        And it hasn't been just against the contenders, either; the Pirates, who have beaten them two straight, have the NL's worst record (58-94) and will lose 100 games by dropping six of their final 10.

        Tuesday's game began badly for the Cubs and quickly got worse with Jason Bere (11-10), coming off seven shutout innings against Cincinnati, retiring only one batter in a five-run first inning.

        It was the second five-run inning by the Pirates in a span of five innings. The Pirates rallied from a 5-0 deficit with a five-run sixth inning Monday and went on to win 7-6.

        This time, Brian Giles, Rob Mackowiak and Wilson had run-scoring singles in the first, while Kevin Young had a sacrifice fly and Jason Kendall drew a bases-loaded walk after starting the inning with a leadoff walk.

        The Cubs' bullpen wasn't much better, with Carlos Zambrano giving up three runs in the second and Courtney Duncan four more in the third to make it 12-0.


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