Rookie Vogelsong hurls seven dominant innings

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Rookie Ryan Vogelsong allowed only an unearned
run over seven dominant innings, and the Pittsburgh Pirates stalled
the Chicago Cubs' run at the playoffs by winning 8-2 Saturday

The costly loss, their second in a row to the non-contending
Pirates, kept the Cubs from closing within a half-game of the NL
Central lead. The Astros stayed 1{ games up despite losing 3-2 to
St. Louis in 13 innings. Houston has eight games to play, and the
Cubs seven.

The Cubs seemingly had the easiest path to the postseason among
the NL teams still in contention, with seven games against the
Pirates and three against the Reds. But they have dropped two of
three this weekend at PNC Park as their usually steady starting
pitching has deserted them.

Matt Clement (13-12), trying for a career-high 14th victory, was
in command early until suddenly losing his control in the Pirates'
five-run fourth. Clement walked Matt Stairs and Jason Bay before
hitting Carlos Rivera with a pitch to load the bases.

Abraham Nunez's infield single drove in the go-ahead run, and
ex-Cubs infielder Jose Hernandez -- recently stuck in an 0-for-26
streak -- singled in two more runs. Vogelsong, with only one hit in
13 career at-bats, singled to load the bases again, and Tike
Redman's single between off reliever Mark Guthrie scored two more

Clement's meltdown was reminiscent of a Sept. 10 game against
Montreal, when he didn't allow a hit in five innings but walked
five and gave up three runs.

The Pirates' first seven batters reached in the fourth, although
only two batters hit the ball beyond the infield. Rivera, also a
rookie, added a two-run homer in the seventh against Antonio

Vogelsong (2-1) won his second straight following six
consecutive losses to begin his career. The right-hander, who
needed reconstructive elbow surgery shortly after being acquired
from the Giants two years ago in the Jason Schmidt trade, allowed
five hits while striking out eight and walking one. Sammy Sosa
struck out four straight times, three against Vogelsong.

The Cubs lost for the second time in a week while failing to
solve a rookie starting pitcher. They lost 1-0 Sunday as Reds
rookie Josh Hall pitched seven shutout innings.

Vogelsong hasn't allowed an earned run over 12 innings in his
last two starts, shutting out the Reds for five innings in a 6-3
victory Monday.

The Pirates have won eight of 11 and are 31-30 since dealing
away many of their key regulars and pitchers in July, including the
Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, Randall Simon and Kenny Lofton, and Boston's
Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck. They later dealt their best
player, outfielder Brian Giles.

Game notes
Pirates batting coach Gerald Perry was ejected by plate
umpire Joe Brinkman, apparently for disputing ball-strike calls
with Bay and Rivera batting. It was Perry's second ejection this
season. ... The Cubs had won four of five and six of eight. ...
Nunez went 3-for-4. ... Sosa also struck out against Mike Lincoln
in the eighth.