Cubs 7, Pirates 3

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PITTSBURGH – Todd Walker hit a two-run homer in the first inning, Aramis Ramirez added a two-run shot and the Chicago Cubs finished another successful series in Pittsburgh by defeating the Pirates 7-3.

Derrek Lee hit a two-run double that chased starter Ian Snell (0-1) in a four-run sixth – his 43rd hit against the Pirates since 2004, the most by any major league player against another club in that span.

Lee’s success against the Pirates is reflected in the Cubs’ 13-2 record in Pittsburgh since May 30, 2004. The Cubs have won 11 of 15 and 21 of 27 against the NL Central rival, and they haven’t had a losing record against Pittsburgh since 2000.

The Cubs won two of three in the weekend series, losing 2-1 to Zach Duke on Saturday night. Glendon Rusch (1-2) gave them an effective start Sunday to beat the Pirates for only the second time in nine career decisions, taking a two-hit shutout into the sixth before giving up Craig Wilson’s three-run homer.

Wilson’s homer was his sixth of the season and fifth in 19 at-bats, and was the Pittsburgh’s 13th in seven home games in what normally is one of the majors’ least homer-friendly ballparks, PNC Park. But the Pirates, off to a 4-10 start, aren’t getting the starting pitching needed to support their improved offense.

Snell, one of the minors’ top pitchers last season, struggled again for the third start in a row by allowing six runs and six hits in five-plus innings. He has yielded at least five runs in every start and, like every Pirates starter except for Duke, isn’t giving them many innings – only 15 in three starts. The right-hander has a 9.60 ERA on a starting staff that has a 7.25 ERA through 14 games.

The poor starting pitching means the Pirates are repeatedly falling behind by multiple runs early in games, as they did again Sunday.

The Cubs were up 3-0 in a span of five batters as Juan Pierre and Ramirez singled ahead of Walker’s first homer, a drive into the right-field seats.

Snell didn’t allow a hit over the next four innings, then gave up singles to Pierre and Freddie Bynum starting the sixth ahead of Lee’s two-run double. Ramirez made it 7-0 with his second homer, off rookie reliever Matt Capps, who has allowed three homers in six innings.

Roberto Novoa pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings in his first appearance for the Cubs this season, and closer Ryan Dempster finished in the ninth in a non-save situation.

Notes: Cubs OF Jacque Jones walked as pinch hitter in the ninth after missing four games with a sore hamstring. … Rusch won for the first time in three starts this season. He gave up homers to opposing starter Bronson Arroyo of Cincinnati in each of his previous two starts. … Pirates batters were 3-of-19 with runners in scoring position in the series until Wilson homered. Wilson is 15-for-29 with two homers against Rusch. … The Pirates are 1-7 in games started by opposing left-handers. … Pittsburgh hasn’t won consecutive games at home against the Cubs since May 28-29, 2004.

AP-ES-04-16-06 1609EDT

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