McDonald tries to deliver Bucs a series win in finale with Cubs

Right-hander James McDonald makes his first start since a breakout 2012 season Thursday when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Chicago Cubs in the rubber match of a three-game series at PNC Park.

McDonald, who'd had just 18 big-league wins in 95 appearances heading into 2012, was a 12-game winner in 30 appearances for the Pirates last season while allowing just 147 hits and striking out 151 in 171 innings.

He'll also be searching for his first career victory against the Cubs in his eighth appearance and seventh start. Through 34 2/3 innings, McDonald is 0-3 with a 5.71 earned run average and a .265 opposition batting average.

He was 0-2 against the Cubs in 2012 and 6-2 in eight home decisions.

For Chicago, 26-year-old lefty Travis Wood makes the first start in what he hopes will be a breakout 2013 season.

The former second-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds was a five-game winner in 17 starts with the Reds in 2010, then won six games in 2011 and six more in 2012 for the Cubs across 44 starts in 44 appearances.

He allowed just 133 hits in 158 innings in 26 starts last season - an opposition batting average of just .232 - but walked 54 batters and allowed 25 home runs.

Wood is 3-4 in seven career meetings with the Pirates with a 4.45 ERA in 30 1/3 innings.

On Wednesday, Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez each drove in a run as the Pirates evened the series with a 3-0 victory over the Cubs.

Starling Marte plated the final run for the Pirates, who saw starter Wandy Rodriguez (1-0) pitch 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allow just two hits while striking out six batters and walking one in the victory.

Jason Grilli picked up the save with a scoreless ninth inning to secure the win.

Alfonso Soriano and Alberto Gonzalez supplied the only hits for the Cubs, who saw starter Edwin Jackson (0-1) toss five innings of two-run ball while striking out five batters and giving up three hits in defeat.

Chicago split 16 meetings with the Pirates a year ago.