A quiet day at the plate derailed the Chicago Cubs' momentum their last time out.
They'll try to jump-start their offense Saturday as they continue their three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.NL Central-leading Chicago (65-45) scored 40 runs during a five-game winning streak, including four straight in Milwaukee prior to this series, but the bats went silent Friday as the club managed just five hits in a 3-0 defeat to Pittsburgh (51-58)."There's 54 games to go," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "You get a hangover this quick, I don't think that's an excuse. Give their pitchers credit. They pitched a good ballgame, they played well and they beat us."The Cubs, who top the NL with 580 runs scored, stranded eight and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position."We had a lot of guys on base and we just didn't get key hits with men in scoring position," third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who went 2-for-3, told the Cubs' official Web site. "When you do that, you're not going to win ballgames."Chicago fell to 7-7 in its last 14 games at Wrigley Field, but still owns the best home record in the NL at 39-15.After having little success versus newly acquired Pittsburgh starter Jeff Karstens on Friday, Chicago will now contend with Paul Maholm (7-6, 3.79 ERA), who has yet to lose to the Cubs. He is 4-0 despite posting a 6.15 ERA in seven career outings against Chicago, and the Pirates have won six of those appearances.The left-hander, who went 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five July starts, equaled a career high with nine strikeouts and yielded one run and four hits in seven innings, but left without a decision in a 3-1 home loss to Jake Peavy and San Diego on Sunday."Overall, whenever you go seven and give up one run and keep your team in the game, especially against a guy like Peavy -- it's going to be a low-scoring game and you've got to keep them in the game," Maholm told the Pirates' official Web site.In Maholm's most recent start versus the Cubs, he gave up five runs and eight hits in eight innings of a 6-5, 11-inning win in Pittsburgh on May 25. Ted Lilly (10-6, 4.49) was reached for four runs and 10 hits in six innings in that contest, and will match up with Maholm again on Saturday.Lilly allowed three runs and seven hits -- two homers -- in six innings Monday, but didn't receive a decision in a 6-4 win at Milwaukee. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in seven career appearances against Pittsburgh.Lilly now looks to help the Cubs avoid a fourth straight defeat to the Pirates since they dropped five in a row from Aug. 28-Sept. 5, 2006.Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won for the third time in four games Friday and appears to be adjusting to life without Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, now with the New York Yankees, and Jason Bay -- dealt to Boston on Thursday in a three-team trade that moved Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers."There's going to have to be people who step up," center fielder Nate McLouth said. "It's just going to take a lot of contributions from everybody. They're certainly missed. I guess we'll see who rises to the challenge."