Maybe the worst-case scenario has run its course with the Cubs.
Todd Hundley almost was thrown out at the plate advancing from second base on Alex Gonzalez's double off the right-field scoreboard. He had gone back to tag up, then had to hustle to keep Mark Bellhorn, who had been on first base, from passing him.
Instead of scoring easily, Hundley had to evade a swipe tag from catcher Jason Kendall. It turned out to be the difference in a 9-8 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"Normally he's out," manager Don Baylor said.
Not only did the Cubs not have to pay for Hundley's baserunning gaffea replay of which drew an angry reaction from the PNC Park crowd of 21,208but they got Kerry Wood (6-3) a victory despite three errors and having Bellhorn picked off first base with Moises Alou on third.
Bellhorn's first career grand slam and homers by Chris Stynes and Gonzalez carried the Cubs to a 9-2 lead. It was down to a one-run margin before Antonio Alfonseca worked a perfect ninth, letting his team leave Pittsburgh with a split in the four-game series and a 4-3 record on the trip.
"It turned out it was a good thing we scored all the runs we did," Wood said. "It shouldn't have been that close."
With fresh memories of the bullpen blowing a 5-0 lead Sunday in Houston, Baylor squirmed in the dugout as Pittsburgh scored three runs off Wood in the sixth, one on Brian Giles' homer off Joe Borowski in the seventh and two unearned runs in the eighth.
Reliever Juan Cruz committed two errors on the same play in that inning, bobbling a comebacker from Adrian Brown, then firing the ball past Bellhorn at first base.
"A seven-run lead," Baylor said, shaking his head. "It's never safe at all."
Wood's fastball wasn't as effective as it has been. He said his curve was sharper than in recent starts, but he still allowed eight hits and five runs in 51/3 innings. It was the most hits Wood has allowed in a start this season, ending a stretch of five games in which he had allowed no more than four hits.
"With the seven-run lead, I just tried to go after those guys," said Wood, whose earned-run average climbed to 3.07. "I had a decent breaking ball today. I was able to throw it more than I had lately. You have to give their guys some credit. They came back on us, but we were able to squeak it out."
Bellhorn, who replaced Fred McGriff at first base, was an unlikely hero. He was in the lineup for the first time since jamming his right wrist a week earlier. The Cubs had considered placing him on the disabled list but decided they couldn't afford to lose the one hitter who has provided production off the bench.
Bellhorn drove a low 1-1 pitch from lefty Jimmy Anderson (4-7) into the left-field seats, giving the Cubs a 6-2 lead.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," said Bellhorn, who has five homers. "I wanted to hit a fly ball, somehow get the run in from third."
Gonzalez made it back-to-back homers with a drive to center off reliever Sean Lowe in the fourth. That gave the Cubs their first three-homer game since May 3.
Along with the newfound power, Baylor was encouraged by two-hit games from Moises Alou and Gonzalez, who have been slumping. The wait for a show of force from Sammy Sosa, McGriff and Alou continues.
For the Cubs (21-31) to climb immediately back to .500, this would have to be the start of an 11-game winning streak.
"We should be going home 6-1 [on the trip]," Wood said. "We lost some games we shouldn't have lost. Those games hurt. But we're starting to play good baseball, to play the way we should."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times