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Cubs Take Advantage Of Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates needed less than a day

a steamy, scorching, unproductive day to realize how much they miss Jason Kendall.

Henry Rodriguez homered and drove in three runs and the Chicago Cubs benefited from some terrible Pittsburgh infield play on a brutally hot day to halt a four-game losing streak and beat the Kendall-less Pirates 5-2 Monday.

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Game Summary

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  • Rodriguez had a sacrifice fly in the first inning after the first two of Pittsburgh's four infield errors, an RBI double in a two-run fourth that included another error and a solo homer in the fifth off Jason Schmidt (8-6).

    "I was just trying to help the team, especially the way we've been going for what seems like the last 15 years," Rodriguez said of the Cubs, who had lost 18 of 23. "This has been a long time. The last three weeks were really hard."

    The previous 24 hours were hard on the Pirates, who lost Kendall

    their best player and clubhouse leader with a shattered right ankle in a gruesome accident Sunday. He probably won't play again until 2000.

    A number of players visited Kendall in his hospital room Sunday night and Monday, and the Pirates wore his nickname "Kid" on their hats in tribute.

    "When you lose a great player like Jason, you have much less margin for error," manager Gene Lamont said. "We have to catch the ball better than that. Sometimes you can pitch above something like that, but sometimes you can't."

    Jon Lieber (7-3) finally gave the Cubs something resembling a well-pitched game in his first start against his former teammates, allowing two runs and striking out 10 in 5 1-3 innings as temperatures peaked at 101 degrees.

    The heat led to a predictably slow-paced game that featured 19 strikeouts 13 by Cubs pitchers and 11 walks and took nearly 3 1/2 hours to play.

    "I felt like my shoes were going to melt," Schmidt said.

    Schmidt, who inhabits Lieber's old locker, lost for the first time in seven decisions in Three Rivers Stadium this season. But he didn't have much help as three infield errors twby shortstop Abraham Nunez and one by second baseman Warren Morris led to the first three runs. Third baseman Ed Sprague made the fourth error.

    Lieber's outing seemed modest by most standards two runs, eight hits, five walks but it was a vast improvement for a Cubs staff that was rocked for 41 runs and 50 hits during Philadelphia's three-game weekend sweep.

    Of course, Lieber and four relievers got plenty of help from a reconfigured Pirates batting order that stranded 15 runners, including at least two in all but one of the first six innings.

    "Sure, it's a little extra special because it's the Pirates," said Lieber, who was traded for Brant Brown in December. "But I'm just glad we won a ballgame and I hope it starts something big for us."

    Were the Pirates pressing to make up for Kendall's lost production?

    Brown, for example, was 2-for-5 while batting cleanup for only the second time. But he struck out with two on and none out in the third and again an inning later to leave the bases stranded.

    "I talked to all the players, and I told them they can't try to be something they're not," Lamont said. "You can't try to hit homers if you're not a power hitter. If you're a defensive player, you can't try to hit .370. All you do is put more pressure on yourself."

    Ray King, Matt Karchner, Felix Heredia and Rick Aguilera shut out the Pirates over the final 3 2-3 innings, an exceptionally good outing for a bullpen with a 6.31 ERA. Aguilera got three outs for his fourth save.

    Schmidt's balk scored the Cubs' final run in the fifth after Rodriguez led off with his 15th homer and Tyler Houston and Sandy Martinez singled with one out.


  • Pirates 1B Ivan Cruz was to make a spot start in place of Kevin Young, but was scratched with a pulled rib cage muscle. He probably will become the 11th Pirates player on the disabled list.
  • Sammy Sosa went 0-for-4 and failed to homer for the first time in three games, but reached base four times three times on errors, and a walk.
  • The Pirates (40-41) have lost four straight, costing them a chance to be .500 or above at midseason for the first time since 1992.
  • Lieber won for only the third time in his last 10 starts, then celebrated by having dinner with Schmidt, his mound opponent.
  • The Pirates have 82 errors in 81 games.
  • Kendall's replacement, Keith Osik, was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts but threw out three runners attempting to steal.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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