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Pirates attempt to string back-to-back wins together vs. Cubs

The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't won consecutive road games in a month, but they're still in the thick of the National League wild card chase.

The Buccos will continue their series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field today hoping for just their fourth win in 15 games.

The Pirates haven't won back-to-back road contests since Aug. 5 at Cincinnati and Aug. 17 at St. Louis. They snapped a seven-game slide Saturday and sit two games behind the Dodgers and Cardinals for the second wild card spot.

Left-hander Jeff Locke gets the starting assignment today for the Pirates in his fifth appearance (third start) of 2012. Locke gave up two solo homers while not receiving a decision against the Cubs at PNC Park last Sunday.

Chris Volstad, a winner in three of his last four starts, gets the mound assignment for the Cubs. The righty is 2-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts facing the Pirates.

Andrew McCutchen and Clint Barmes each hit solo home runs, and the Pirates won 7-6 yesterday.

The Cubs scored twice off the Pirates closer and had the winning run on second base before Joel Hanrahan struck out Dave Sappelt to close out the much-needed win.

Starling Marte doubled, tripled, drove in a run and scored twice for the Pirates, who were mired in a 5-17 slump since winning a 19-inning marathon in St. Louis on Aug. 19.

Wandy Rodriguez helped end the swoon, which had dropped Pittsburgh three games back in the race for the last NL wild-card spot, with a quality start. Rodriguez (11-13) scattered nine hits and three runs -- one earned -- over six innings to earn the win.

"Today I didn't have my best stuff," Rodriguez said. "I used a lot of my 2- seamer because it's the only pitch I had that I felt comfortable. When I used my curveball, I missed a lot today."

Jason Berken (0-1), making his first big-league start since Oct. 2, 2009, was touched for six runs -- just two earned -- on eight hits in four innings of work for the Cubs, who had won six of seven coming into the second meeting of this four-game series.

"He couldn't really find the strike zone," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Berken.

Chicago swept the Pirates in three games last weekend at PNC Park. The season series is even after 14 games.