PITTSBURGH -- 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.
- 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.