Hammel hit hard, Cubs lose to Pirates 4-2

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jason Hammel had been one of the majors’ best starters when it came to limiting baserunners. He looked anything but on Wednesday.

Hammel allowed 11 hits in five innings and the Chicago Cubs lost for the third time in four games, 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at rain-soaked PNC Park.

“It was rough,” Hammel said. “A lot of hits given up. Up in the zone. Obviously could have been better strikes thrown, but I battled through. It could have been a lot worse - 11 hits through five innings? It’s amazing they only put up four.”

Luis Valbuena continued his recent strong hitting with three hits for last-place Chicago, which has lost three of four after a season-best five-game winning streak.

Hammel had won two previous starts against the Pirates this season and entered Wednesday with the second-best WHIP in the majors (0.88).

But he was flat from the beginning, and Hammel denied that the 1-hour, 38-minute rain delay at the start of the game had anything to do with it.

“Honestly, I thought I did a pretty good job for as many baserunners as I had tonight,” he said. “It was definitely a battle. It was a grind. You’ve just got to keep pitching, keep throwing strikes. Good slider tonight. Just fastball command was a little up.”

Hammel (6-4) was spared a worse line by some poor baserunning by Pittsburgh, which hit into two peculiar double plays and had another runner thrown out at third during the seventh inning after Hammel was out of the game.

Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer in the first inning and reached base four times for Pittsburgh, which has taken two of the first three games of the series with their NL Central rivals.

McCutchen’s fly ball landed more than a row into the left-field seats - but it almost became an extra-long out when left fielder Chris Coghlan leaped into the stands. He landed in the seats and said he had a read on the ball but that a fan outmaneuvered him for it.

“Best non-catch effort I’ve ever seen,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

McCutchen is batting .462 during a seven-game hitting streak and has 12 extra-base hits during 10 June games.

“I would have went there and shook his hand myself if he caught that ball,” he said.

McCutchen’s 10th homer snapped Hammel’s streaks of 14 1-3 innings without allowing a run and 52 innings without allowing a homer.

“It wasn’t one of Hammy’s best days,” Renteria said. “But he sure did grind out five innings.”

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