CHICAGO – While Pirates executives were busy positioning the team for a run at its first playoff berth since 1992, on the field Pittsburgh had one of its poorest efforts of the season.
Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro homered during a nine-run fifth inning and the Chicago Cubs routed the Pirates 14-4 Monday night in their highest-scoring game of the season.
Rizzo's drive off Erik Bedard (5-12) keyed Chicago's biggest burst of the year. Bedard matched a career-worst by giving up nine runs — eight earned — over 4 1-3 innings.
"They hit good pitches, bad pitches and the unfortunate thing they went over the fence," Bedard said. "I felt really good. I guess that's the positive out of it."
Bedard's 12 defeats give him the most in the majors. The Pirates remained three games behind the Reds in the NL Central.
"I just think it was a couple of pitches in the wrong spot that they connected with," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Three run homers always hurt."
Rizzo and Darwin Barney hit three-run homers. Castro had a two-run shot and reached base four times as the Cubs won for the 11th time in their last 13 games at Wrigley Field.
Barney dropped a throw when trying to make a pivot on a double play, allowing the Pirates to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Barney, who completed his 88th straight errorless game at second base, was not charged with an error on the play because he got the out at second.
Barney said his frustration with the bobble fueled his next at-bat, when he deposited a fastball from Bedard deep into the left-field bleachers. Barney threw his bat aside and gestured towards his own dugout, but said he was still made at himself and not trying to show up the Pirates.
"When I hit that home run, I was still almost yelling at myself. I was so almost pumped up that I could come through like that," Barney said. "I made sure to say a couple things to a couple of their guys so that they would know I was mad for botching that double play."
Justin Germano (1-1) held Pittsburgh to two runs over five innings in his first start since Oct. 3, 2010. He picked up his first win since Aug. 28, 2007, when he beat Arizona as a member of the San Diego Padres.
During the midst of the Cubs' biggest inning of the season, CF Reed Johnson and C Geovany Soto were pulled for pinch-hitters amid speculation that both had been traded. Luckily, the move didn't impact that outcome of the game.
"You hate to pull guys out of games," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "It's sort of part of the business. It isn't comfortable to go down there and make moves.
"I'm glad in this case it didn't impact the actual game. The Pirates are in pennant race and you hate to screw up an individual game. These things could come down to one game."
After the game, the Pirates made a move of their own, announcing that they had traded reliever Brad Lincoln to Toronto for OF Travis Snider.
Rookie Starling Marte had three hits and an RBI for the Pirates and Mike McKenry drove in two runs, but it wasn't nearly enough after Bedard's struggles.
"You're going to take beatings from time to time," Hurdle said. "Things just got away from us a little bit."
NOTES: RHP Ryan Dempster is slated to start the second game of the series for the Cubs though he continues to be the subject of trade rumors. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he would be "surprised" if Dempster was still with the team after Tuesday's trade deadline. Chicago will have a minor league pitcher travel to Chicago as a contingency to a Dempster transaction. ... Another subject of trade rumors, Cubs RHP Matt Garza threw a bullpen session on Monday that Sveum said went "extremely well." Garza is expected to return to action later this week. His last start was pushed back because of cramping in his right arm. ... Hurdle celebrated his 55th birthday on Monday.