The Cubs by far are the biggest-market team in the National League Central.
But they have one small problem.
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Actually, they have three big problems. And those are the smaller markets of Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Those cities may not have the skyscrapers we have in Chicago, but their baseball teams tower over the Cubs.
The Pirates came into Wrigley Field on Friday and outclassed the home team in every way during a 6-2 victory on a gorgeous afternoon and before a big crowd of 38,615.
Pittsburgh resides in first place in the NL Central for a reason, and the Cubs take up fourth spot for good reasons, too. Ditto for the comparisons with the second-place St. Louis Cardinals and third-place Cincinnati Reds.
While the Cubs have a record of 25-22 against the rest of baseball, they're just 11-26 against the NL Central, including 3-5 against the last-place Milwaukee Brewers.
On Friday, the Pirates got a complete-game victory from pitcher Francisco Liriano (8-3, 2.20 ERA). They also outhit the Cubs 13-4 and did things like pull off a double-steal.
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (5-8, 3.54 ERA) had little fastball command. The Cubs didn't make any errors, but center fielder Dave Sappelt took a bad route on one flyball, and Starlin Castro's nightmarish 2013 continued when he got picked off second base to end the eighth inning.
All the Cubs were left with was hoping their "rebuilding" plan will work and waxing nostalgic about when the Pirates weren't very good.
"You remember the days when this division wasn't too good," offered Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team fell to 36-48.
"That's part of baseball, and that's where you got to get as an organization, your 25-man roster, to get guys and to play like and pitch like those guys are."
The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on a 2-run homer by Scott Hairston, but the Pirates came back with 3 in the third.
Like any good team, they jumped the Cubs that inning with a double-steal, a bunt single and a triple.
"We feel pretty good going into every game, every time we play these guys," Samardzija said. "We understand we need to put a solid game together when we play them and bring out 'A' game especially these three teams at the top of our division. Teams like them play solid baseball. They don't make mistakes, and they take advantage of your mistakes."
As for Castro, he was 1-for-4 with a double. He was thrown out at the plate Thursday in Oakland on a play Sveum called a no-brainer that he should have scored. The manager was not happy with Friday's pickoff.
"You're down by (4); you got nowhere to go," Sveum said. "You're not scoring on anything but a single, a possible double."
At least Castro owned up.
"Really tough," he said. "It's not a smart play. I feel really, really bad, because that can't happen. We're down by 4, eighth inning, that run is not important. I tried to be aggressive, but that can't happen."