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Cubs rally for two off Mesa to waste Wells' outing

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A one-run lead in the ninth, Jose Mesa on the
mound. For two days in a row, the very situation the Pittsburgh
Pirates wanted proved to be exactly what the Chicago Cubs needed to
get their bats going.

Jose Macias' sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run, and the
Cubs rallied with two runs in the ninth against Mesa for the second
time in less than 20 hours, ruining Kip Wells' solid start and
beating the Pirates 3-2 Wednesday.

"That was a big victory for us -- a couple of weeks ago we were
losing those games," said manager Dusty Baker, whose Cubs came
into the series 6-9 in one-run games. "That was a good two days
here, especially beating Mesa two days in a row. That doesn't
happen."

The Pirates had won 40 consecutive games when leading after
eight innings, and Mesa had converted 23 successive save
opportunities, until the Cubs won 4-3 Tuesday night on Derrek Lee's
two-run homer in the ninth.

After that loss, perhaps the Pirates' toughest all season,
outfielder Jason Bay said he would gladly take the same situation
again Wednesday. That's precisely what happened -- and, again, the
Cubs rallied to win.

"What are you going to do?" Mesa said. "I blew another one."

Jeromy Burnitz drew a walk from Mesa (0-3) to start the ninth,
only to be thrown out easily at second as the Pirates pitched out
in anticipation of a possible hit-and-run, which Baker confirmed he
called.

Michael Barrett doubled but, after manager Lloyd McClendon
ordered Corey Patterson intentionally walked even though he
represented the tying run, pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth singled
off first baseman Daryle Ward's glove to score Barrett with the
tying run.

It was Hollandsworth's first hit in seven career at-bats against
Mesa and his first in seven pinch-hit at-bats this season.

"That was big," Baker said.

Macias' sacrifice fly then scored Patterson. Macias was playing
only because third baseman Aramis Ramirez didn't start because his
stiff lower back flared up again.

The night before, McClendon decided not to walk Lee in the ninth
and put the potential tying run on base, and Lee responded with his
second homer of the game. This time, McClendon chose to issue the
intentional walk.

"The dynamics of this game were much different," McClendon
said. "We had a guy (Hollandsworth) struggling, who was 0-for-6
against Mesa. But we didn't make pitches, didn't execute and we
lost the game. ... We had the opportunity to sweep the series and
we ended up getting swept."

Michael Wuertz (1-2) pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory.
Ryan Dempster, the Cubs' latest closer, pitched out of a
bases-loaded jam in the ninth for his second save in two days by
getting Jack Wilson -- who was 3-for-3 -- to ground into a double
play.

"Neifi (Perez, the shortstop) came out to me and said, `Make
'em hit it to me,' and the next pitch, he hit it right to him,"
Dempster said.

Wells limited the Cubs to one run and four hits over eight
innings, the sixth successive start in which he has allowed three
earned runs or fewer. But the Pirates were 0-for-8 with runners in
scoring position and couldn't build on their 2-0 lead in the second
against Glendon Rusch, who walked six.

Ward and Matt Lawton each had a sacrifice fly off Rusch, who
avoided his eighth loss in nine career decisions against Pittsburgh
by stranding seven runners in six innings.

Lee, who came into the game leading the NL in homers (12) and
RBI (37), had a quiet afternoon against Wells, going 0-for-4 with
two strikeouts and a double-play grounder. Lee is 2-of-18 against
Wells.

Wells didn't allow a runner to third base or face a major jam
until the eighth, when pinch-hitter Ben Grieve walked and Jerry
Hairston singled and stole second with one out. Pinch-runner Mike
Fontenot scored on Perez's sacrifice fly to center, but Lee lined
out softly to first.

Game notes
Before the two comeback victories, the Cubs had lost 10 of
14. ... Wells' only shutout in 144 major league starts came against
the Cubs on May 29, 2002. ... The Pirates have not committed an
error in 74 innings. ... The Cubs are 5-2 against the Pirates this
season and 18-7 the last two years. ... Wilson is 15-of-33 (.454)
against Rusch. ... The Pirates are 5-12 at home, losing four of
five to the Cubs. ... Pittsburgh lost a series for the first time
in its last five. ... Barrett didn't catch the bottom of the ninth
because of recurring stiffness in his right shoulder. He will be
examined before the Cubs' weekend series against the White Sox.