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Pirates' offense takes Cubs to the woodshed

Pirates' offense takes Cubs to the woodshed

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CHICAGO -- It took 12 tries and up until the final hours of the month, but the Pirates will not finish August winless away from PNC Park.

A runaway 14-7 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday eliminated that possibility by snapping a 14-game road losing streak that had been building since July 29. The win also ensured that the Pirates won't approach the season-worst 17-game road skid endured earlier this year.

For a team that has labored on the road all season, it was all fun, laced with plenty of relief.

"That felt pretty good," said Andrew McCutchen, who contributed three hits and a pair of RBIs. "We hit balls hard, they found holes, hit some out. Things are actually starting to go our way. We had just an all-around great game."

Nights like the Pirates' offense had on Tuesday have been a rarity this season. And they've been particularly atypical in August, where the club had averaged three runs a game and hit .229 as a unit before ending the month on a crescendo.

Unwilling to let the sour taste of a fundamentally-flawed beating on Monday carry over 24 hours, the Pirates' lineup punched back with a 15-hit, breakout night of its own.

"We had a tough night last night and we evened it out," Ronny Cedeno said. "Offensively, defensively, pitching -- we put everything together. We've got so much talent here. We can do some things."

The Pirates set a season high for runs scored on the road this year, bettering the 10 plated at Wrigley Field back in May. Not since May 31, 2008, when the Pirates claimed a 14-4 win at St. Louis, had Pittsburgh scored that many in a road game.

And they did all of this once again at the Cubs' expense. Now 10-4 against Chicago this season -- the first 10-win season the Pirates have had against the Cubs since 1992 -- Pittsburgh has claimed 23 percent of its season wins against the Cubs.

This time, the Pirates got to Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who came in seeking his 100th career win and exited after three innings.

"That wasn't a good job, a good performance by me," Dempster said afterward. "We should've won that game. We scored seven runs, but it's hard when your starting pitcher, being me, puts us in a hole and it's 7-0. That's a lot to overcome. I didn't execute pitches, didn't get ahead of hitters. No explanation, I just didn't get it done."

There were plenty of individual offensive performances to highlight the night, beginning with Neil Walker's four-hit, four-RBI affair. After singling and scoring in the first and fourth, Walker delivered a two-run homer and two-run double to cap his night.

In matching his career high with four RBIs, Walker also finished with a team-best 22 in August.

Jose Tabata and McCutchen each produced three-hit nights, the latter being especially encouraging given McCutchen's recent struggles. He entered the game with just three hits in his last 28 at-bats.

Tabata broke out of a mini funk, too, snapping a string of 11 hitless at-bats with an RBI triple in the second. By the end of the night, Tabata had three runs scored and two RBIs to complement his multi-hit performance.

Garrett Jones -- mired in his own 6-for-43 skid -- drove in three and blasted a two run homer, his 20th of the year.

"They played hard tonight," manager John Russell said. "They play hard no matter what happens. They come out each day with a purpose. It's nice to be rewarded for it."

All eight starting position players finished with at least one hit. And all but Cedeno scored at least once. It was Cedeno, however, who keyed the Pirates' four-run first against Dempster with a two-out, two-run double.

Overall, the Pirates scored in each of the first four innings, something this club hadn't done since Sept. 3, 2007. Pittsburgh held a 9-0 lead by the end of the fourth.

"We can take a lot of confidence from this game," Walker said. "We knew with the elements here and type of ballpark it is that scoring runs early is nice, but at the same time that you have to make sure you're adding on. We did that. It was a great team effort."

With more run support than he's enjoyed all season, Jeff Karstens cruised en route to snapping a personal eight-game losing skid. Winless since June 19, Karstens tossed six innings in what was his first start back from a one-start hiatus due to arm fatigue.

The only blip in Karstens' performance came in the fifth, when Cubs catcher Koyie Hill sent a 1-0 pitch over the wall for a two-run homer. Karstens allowed only three other hits and matched his career high with six strikeouts.

"Fourteen runs, my job is easy," he said. "For the most part, missing that start made my arm feel a lot better. Now it's just a matter of grinding it out and getting through the season."

The Pirates were thankful late that the offense had not stopped pushing across runs earlier, as the Cubs did make some noise against Pittsburgh's 'pen. Chicago enjoyed a five-run eighth off Sean Gallagher, who had to be pulled with two outs in the frame.

A perfect ninth from Chris Resop ended any concern about the Cubs pecking away any further, and it set the Pirates up to be able to clinch a fifth series victory over Chicago with a win on Wednesday. Pittsburgh hasn't taken five series from the Cubs in one season in 20 years.

"We might not be winning the games that we think we should be winning, but the approach at the plate and the pitching, I think the confidence is coming," Karstens said. "It's a matter of turning the corner."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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