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Chicago Cubs struggle against Cumpton, lose 2-1 to Pittsburgh Pirates in series finale

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CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs had a couple of chances after Brandon Cumpton left the game. It wasn't enough to rally past the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Nate Schierholtz had a run-scoring grounder in the ninth inning, but Mark Melancon got Junior Lake to fly out with a runner on first for the final out in Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory on Sunday.

Cumpton pitched seven scoreless innings and Travis Snider hit a solo homer for the Pirates, who took the last two games of their weekend series in Chicago. The 25-year-old Cumpton (3-2) allowed two hits and walked two while improving to 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts this month.

The Cubs got the first two men on in the eighth and ninth innings, and only came away with one run.

"The eighth and ninth were the innings in which we created the most stress for them," manager Rick Renteria said. "They kept grinding. We gave ourselves a chance there at the end and we still ended up having the potential winning run come to the plate."

Cumpton (3-2) retired 13 of his first 14 batters. He walked Schierholtz in the fifth inning, but rebounded by getting John Baker to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Ryan Sweeney and starting pitcher Jason Hammel had Chicago's only hits off Cumpton, who threw just 87 pitches.

Renteria said the game plan was to be aggressive against Cumpton and when that didn't work, the offence had to adjust with little to show for it.

"Once they started taking one (pitch), (Cumpton would) go strike one, strike two, so now you're behind the eight ball and you have to put yourself in a position where you're fighting," Renteria said. "Our guys aren't afraid to hit with two strikes, but Cumpton ended up attacking the zone a little more effectively. All in all, tip your hat to him."

Mark Melancon got three outs for his 12th save in 15 chances.

Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro started the Cubs ninth with consecutive singles, putting runners on the corners. Melancon then struck out Luis Valbuena and got Schierholtz to hit into a fielder's choice that drove in Rizzo. Junior Lake flied out to right to end the game.

Pirates phenom Gregory Polanco went 0 for 3 with a walk, ending his career-opening hitting streak at 11 games.

Hammel (6-5) allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked one.

Hammel's first pitch of the third inning was hit over the centre-field wall by Snider. It was Snider's fourth homer of the season.

"Snider sees me well, I guess," Hammel said. "It was a bad pitch, supposed to be a two-seamer, kind of a hip shot over the inside corner, but it ran back over the plate. He obviously got it pretty good."

Hammel is 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA in four starts this season against Pittsburgh.

"I can honestly say I'm sick of facing the Pirates," he said. "Four series now and four out of four with them, so I'd like to see some different colours for sure. I'm sure they're tired of seeing me, too. Obviously, 2-1, just a good baseball game."

Later in the third, Harrison hit a comebacker that ricocheted off Hammel's right side and allowed Chris Stewart to score from third. Harrison reached first without a throw, and Hammel was briefly looked at by a team trainer.

Pirates reliever Tony Watson pitched out of trouble in the eighth. With runners on second and third with one out, Watson struck out pinch-hitters Welington Castillo and Justin Ruggiano.

"To get Ruggiano, he threw him an 0-1 changeup last night for a called strike. I don't think he liked the call. Maybe in the back in his mind he was looking for the changeup again," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "(Watson) kept pumping fastballs. He's got a good fastball. It's live."

NOTES: Cubs OF Emilio Bonifacio has yet to return to baseball activities after being placed on the disabled list on June 13 with a rib injury. "We're still in the wait-and-see," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's feeling better, he's not feeling any discomfort anymore." Renteria added that this type of injury can become chronic if not taken care of properly, so the Cubs are being patient to make sure Bonifacio is recovered before returning to the active roster. ... Before the game, the Cubs activated Castillo off the DL. He missed 18 games with a rib cage injury.

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