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updated: 4/10/2014 7:56 PM

Cubs' bullpen blows Wood's solid start

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  • Nate Schierholtz, top, scores on a wild pitch as Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) makes a late tag during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014 in Chicago.

      Nate Schierholtz, top, scores on a wild pitch as Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) makes a late tag during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014 in Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Pittsburgh Pirates' Pedro Alvarez watches his  three-run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Chicago.

      Pittsburgh Pirates' Pedro Alvarez watches his three-run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jason Grilli reacts after getting the last out against the Chicago Cubs in a baseball game, Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Chicago. The Pirates won 5-4.

      Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jason Grilli reacts after getting the last out against the Chicago Cubs in a baseball game, Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Chicago. The Pirates won 5-4.
    Associated Press

 
 

This was going to be a nice little feel-good story about all the nice little things the Cubs did in beating the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

But not even the Superman of the moment, Emilio Bonificio, could save the Cubs from themselves as he grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to end what turned into a 5-4 loss to the Pirates.

The Cubs took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning, but just like that, the Pirates put up a 5-spot, with right-handed reliever Brian Schlitter giving up a 2-run homer to pinch hitter Travis Snider and lefty James Russell suffering a blown save and loss by yielding a massive 3-run blast to center by Pedro Alvarez.

The late developments spoiled a nice pitching performance by Travis Wood and some early-inning hustle by the Cubs.

"There's no difference for me with this one," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, whose team fell to 3-6 with its third straight series loss. "A loss is a loss."

This loss felt like so many among the 96 the Cubs suffered last year, and it exposed several possible problem areas for the team. Not only did the bullpen fail in the mid to late innings as it did last year in so many games, but the offense went from the fourth inning until the ninth without generating so much as a baserunner.

"It's baseball," said Wood, who has 2 quality starts and a 2.92 ERA. "Nothing is guaranteed in this game. Everybody's out trying to get us, and we're out trying to get them. That's just the way the cards fell today."

Asked if it felt like last year, Wood replied: "Not for me. Last year is behind us, in my opinion. That's just the way it's fallen right now."

The two teams combined for 7 home runs, 5 by the Pirates, in Wednesday night's 7-5 Cubs victory. The Cubs played a little small ball with Bonifacio early Thursday. He stole a base and was caught stealing in the first inning.

In the third, he reached on a two-out error by pitcher Gerrit Cole. Bonifacio then stole second and scored in one fell swoop as the throw by catcher Tony Sanchez sailed into center field. Bonifacio has 7 stolen bases for the season. He went hitless, but his average is .452.

"I just hustled," he said. "Those couple of innings are part of my game, and just keep going. I kind of anticipate that (the stolen-base scoring play) because the outfielders, most of time, give up."

Things got interesting, but not in a fun way for the Cubs late.

Wood took a pitch count of 104 into the seventh inning, and he gave up a leadoff double to Neil Walker. Schlitter came in and gave up the homer to Snider, and things pretty much disintegrated from there.

"Travis did a great job," Renteria said. "We sent him back out there. It was going to be a guy gets on and he's done."

Schlitter got two outs but gave up another hit and a walk, and Renteria went to Russell, his top left-handed reliever, to face Alvarez. The Cubs have another lefty in the pen, veteran Wesley Wright, signed ostensibly to take some of the load off Russell. Renteria said "Wesley is fine," but he has not used him since last Friday.

Alvarez, a left-handed hitter, crushed the first pitch from Russell over the shrubbery beyond the center-field wall.

"Just a slider that I hung and left down the middle of the plate," Russell said. "That's what he's supposed to do with it. More power to Alvarez for doing his job and taking my bad pitch deep.

"It's tough, especially as well as Woody pitched. You never want to mess up a good run that he had. It's one of those deals. That's why we play the game. It happens. We live to see another day."

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