Pirates-Cubs Preview

A trip to Wrigley Field couldn’t help the Pittsburgh Pirates end
their misery away from home. The prospects for snapping their
lengthy road losing streak appear grim again Tuesday night.

In what appears to be a decided pitching mismatch, red-hot
Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster will try to earn a career-high
fifth straight victory and complete a near-perfect August while the
Pirates’ Jeff Karstens will try to avoid matching the longest skid
in the majors this season.

Having previously won nine of 12 over the Cubs this season and
four of six at Wrigley, Pittsburgh (43-88) seemed to catch a break
with another matchup against struggling Chicago (56-76). Instead,
the major leagues’ worst team was on the wrong end of a 14-2 rout –
its 14th consecutive road loss and 38th in its last 42 games away
from home.

The Cubs, meanwhile, improved to 5-2 under interim manager Mike
Quade. They would appear to have an excellent chance to continue
that run with Dempster (12-8, 3.42 ERA) heading to the mound.

“I feel great, I’m happy with the response we’re getting,” Quade
said. “Everything is headed in the right direction.”

Dempster, who is 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA in five starts this month,
gave up two hits over seven innings during a 4-0 win in Washington
on Wednesday, the 99th victory of his career.

Dempster has lost both of his matchups this season with the
Pirates despite pitching adequately, allowing three runs over seven
innings in each game. Heading into this season, he had won his four
previous decisions as a starter against Pittsburgh.

Karstens (2-10, 4.98) is 0-8 with a 5.40 ERA in his last 10
starts – a stretch that began with a loss at Wrigley on June
29.

The right-hander’s last start was the worst of all. He gave up a
season-high seven runs and a career high-tying 11 hits in a 7-2
home loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 20.

Fatigue in his pitching arm caused Karstens (2-10, 4.98) to miss
his scheduled start Wednesday, but he’s expected to take the ball
for this contest.

“We’ll see how it goes (Tuesday),” Karstens told the Pirates’
official website.

With another loss, Karstens would join Atlanta’s Kenshin
Kawakami and Baltimore’s Brian Matusz as the only pitchers to drop
nine consecutive decisions this season.

Karstens is 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA in three career starts at
Wrigley and 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA in five overall against the Cubs,
who had dropped 12 of 14 at home before Monday’s series opener.

The Pirates, who lost 17 straight on the road May 26-June 27,
are 13-52 away from home this season. No other club in the majors
has fewer than 21 road wins.