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05/14/10 3:43 PM ET

Bucs, Cubs seek repeat offense performances

Their payrolls are vastly different, and so are their aspirations and personnel. But the division-rival Cubs and Pirates shared one common theme until they opened up a three-game set on Friday: a struggling offense.

Both of them broke out in the series opener at Wrigley Field, when they combined for 16 runs and 27 hits in a 10-6 win by Pittsburgh. But it's consistency these two clubs seek, so they'll look for repeat performances on Saturday.

"I knew sooner or later we were going to be able to score some runs," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "I knew eventually it was going to click for us, and [Friday] just happened to be that day. Hopefully, we can just continue to keep doing that for the rest of this series and just keep carrying it on for the rest of the year."

The Pirates have now beaten the Cubs six consecutive times, dating back to last season.

Before scoring three runs in the first inning on Friday, Pittsburgh -- which snapped a four-game losing streak with the win -- went a stretch of 19 consecutive innings without scoring a run and put just one on the board in a three-game span. Heading into their series against Chicago, the Pirates ranked second to last in the National League in batting average (.232) and runs scored (114).

"We're going through a lot," Pirates manager John Russell said prior to Friday's game. "That's some of the things you deal with as a young team -- the highs and lows. Sometimes they overthink and try to be too good, try to be too patient, try to have such a good at-bat instead of just going up there and relaxing and do what's natural."

The Pirates are relatively young, and their payroll -- lowest in the Majors -- is small. The Cubs, meanwhile, have established veteran hitters and the third-highest team payroll in the big leagues, but have had their struggles plating runs lately.

Heading into their series against the Pirates, the Cubs had scored 32 runs in nine games -- a stretch that saw them go 2-7. Take away a 14-run output against the Reds on May 7, however, and they averaged just over two runs per game in that span.

This season, Chicago has received a combined .233 batting average with 14 homers and 58 RBIs from the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots in the lineup.

"We're much better than this," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella prior to Friday's tilt. "It's hard to win with [so] few runs.

"Leaving Spring Training, one area we didn't worry about was our ability to score runs. We had some concerns about other areas, but that's not one of them."

Cubs: Dempster looks to avenge loss
Saturday will feature a rematch from May 4, as the Cubs' Ryan Dempster and the Pirates' Paul Maholm will go head-to-head for the second time in less than two weeks. The last time they opposed each other, Maholm was the winning pitcher after giving up two runs in six innings. Dempster suffered the loss, even though he went seven frames and gave up three runs.

Dempster, who gave up five runs in seven innings during a loss to the Reds on Sunday, has gone at least six innings in each of his seven starts this season and has recorded five quality starts. In 43 career games (18 starts) against Pittsburgh, the 33-year-old right-hander is 6-8 with a 5.37 ERA.

Pirates: Church expected be in lineup Saturday
Outfielder Ryan Church hasn't started since suffering a bruised right wrist on a hit-by-pitch on May 7, but Russell said he expects the 31-year-old left-handed hitter to return to the lineup on Saturday.

Church, acquired via free agency this offseason, is batting .250 with two homers and seven RBIs in 22 games. He's made seven starts in right field, five in left and one in center.

"I think he could have played [Friday] if we really needed him to start," Russell said. "We're looking for him to definitely start [Saturday]. At home, he was more regulated to pinch-hit. But I think he's to the point now where we can get him a few at-bats. If everything goes well [Friday] and he comes in [Saturday], hopefully we can give him a chance to start."

Worth noting
After sitting out Wednesday's game with a tight left hamstring, Cubs second baseman Ryan Theriot returned to the starting lineup on Friday. ... The last time the Cubs beat the Pirates was Sept. 29, 2009. ... Pirates right-hander Brendan Donnelly (left oblique strain) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and felt fine afterward. He'll throw another on Sunday and then hopefully pitch in a simulated game next week. ... Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with a sore left wrist. ... On Friday, Pittsburgh -- which enjoyed an off-day Thursday -- began a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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