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Professional

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Associated Press
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano walks off the field after striking out Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo to end the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, in Chicago.

Pirates fall to Cubs, blunting NL Central hopes

CHICAGO – The Pittsburgh Pirates’ hopes of catching up in the NL Central took a big hit Wednesday when Darnell McDonald launched a three-run homer, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 win.

With three games remaining in the regular season for each team, the Pirates trail division-leading St. Louis by three games.

The Pirates, who already have clinched a playoff spot, hold a one-game lead over Cincinnati for the first wild-card slot. Pittsburgh and the Reds finish up with a three-game set in Cincinnati this weekend.

McDonald had three hits, including his homer in the sixth inning that put the Cubs ahead 4-1.

Jake Arrieta (4-2) allowed one run and four hits for the Cubs. Kevin Gregg allowed an unearned run in the ninth for his 33rd save.

Francisco Liriano (16-8) allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Darwin Barney hit a one-out double and scored on a single by Anthony Rizzo.

The Pirates tied it in the third when Justin Morneau walked with the bases loaded to score Starling Marte. Arrieta avoided a bigger inning by getting the next batter, Garrett Jones, to ground out.

The Pirates wasted other scoring chances. They had a runner on second with two outs in the fifth. Morneau hit a leadoff double in the sixth and advanced to third with out, but was stranded when Pedro Alvarez grounded out and Tony Sanchez struck out.

The Cubs came through in the sixth.

Donnie Murphy singled and Junior Lake walked, McDonald then hit a 2-1 pitch from Liriano halfway up the bleachers in left-center for his first homer of the season and a 4-1 lead.

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