PITTSBURGH – Clint Hurdle is rarely at a loss for words. Yet even the normally chatty Pittsburgh Pirates manager had problems describing what happened in a gaffe-filled 12-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.
Pittsburgh committed seven errors during the franchise's worst defensive game in more than a quarter-century to blunt its push for a playoff spot.
"I've never been part of a game with seven errors, that's a new one," Hurdle said. "There's nobody in there that's not embarrassed to some degree."
Rookie outfielder Starling Marte and rookie second baseman Brock Holt committed two errors each while catcher Rod Barajas, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and shortstop Josh Harrison also botched makeable plays.
"It was just one of those games, words can't even really describe it," Harrison said. "I really don't know what to say but put it behind us and come back tomorrow."
Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett had been lights out against the Cubs during his career. He came in 6-0 lifetime against Chicago and hadn't even given up a run to the woeful Cubs in two starts with Pittsburgh this season.
All the history didn't matter, however, on a night the Pirates provided Chicago with extra out after extra out. Burnett (15-6) allowed seven runs — three earned — and eight hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Chicago's Travis Wood had no such issues. The left-hander won for the first time in more than two months as the Cubs snapped a six-game losing streak.
"The pitches were working good and the defense was outstanding behind me," Wood said, who improved to 5-12 after allowing one hit in six innings.
The Pirates, not so much.
Playing meaningful September baseball for the first time in 20 years, Pittsburgh hardly looked like a playoff team.
"Our worst game of the season," said Hurdle, who was ejected in the sixth inning. "We stunk tonight. There's always a sense of pride you take out on the field to play your best every night you go out there. Sometimes your best stinks. That's where we were tonight."
Starlin Castro had three hits, including the 500th of his career, and drove in four runs for the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano added three hits and three RBIs as Chicago took full advantage Pittsburgh's charitable defense.
The Pirates had not made seven errors in a game since 1985 and finished one shy of the club record set in 1939. It was the first seven-error game in the majors since Atlanta in a 2004 loss to Colorado.
Pittsburgh's problems started early. Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first thanks in part to an error by Holt.
Things quickly got worse.
Chicago made it 4-0 in the third with plenty of assistance from Marte. One of the franchise's most promising prospects, Marte mishandled a single by Soriano with one on and two outs. The ball caromed off his glove away from him and in his haste to recover, Marte threw wildly in the vicinity of third base.
The ball sailed all the way to the backstop, allowing Anthony Rizzo and Soriano to move into scoring position. Moments later Marte was in trouble again when he booted a sharply hit ball by Castro. Rizzo and Soriano scored easily and Castro — who advanced to second on the error — scored on Steve Clevenger's single.
"It was nice to come in here against one of the better teams in the National League and put it on them pretty good," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "That was good for us, especially from where we were just coming from and for the mental state of the guys in that clubhouse."
Hurdle tried to give his team some life, getting thrown out for the fourth time this season for arguing a close play at third base in which umpire Gary Darling ruled Chicago's Brett Jackson beat Harrison's throw on a fielders' choice.
Instead of responding, the Pirates collapsed as the Cubs eventually went up by a dozen.
At one point a fan in an exasperated PNC Park crowd started yelling "Error! Error!" at the official scorer on a cleanly hit single by Chicago's Tony Campana in the eighth.
Instead of history, the Pirates finished with only seven errors, the most since an 8-4 loss to St. Louis on Sept. 16, 1985.
"We have a very resilient team, but at the same time when you go through that, it stings," Hurdle said. "We talk a lot about things in this game being contagious, on the defensive side, it was."
Wood, who hadn't won since beating the Mets on July 6, didn't let the good fortune go to waste. He retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced and didn't give up a hit until the fifth when Pedro Alvarez's flyball to center glanced off Jackson's glove as the outfielder smacked into the wall.
NOTES: Castro became the 28th player in major league history to reach 500 hits before his 23rd birthday. The previous player to do it was Alex Rodriguez ... The series continues Saturday. Chicago's Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 3.91 ERA) will make his final start of the season for the Cubs against Pittsburgh's James McDonald (12-7, 3.90).
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