PITTSBURGH – The Cubs spent a glorious week at Wrigley Field making inroads on respectability.
It took one night on the road for all that momentum to vanish.
Edwin Jackson challenged Andrew McCutchen twice, losing both times as the Cubs fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 on Monday night to drop to 10-22 away from Wrigley Field, the worst road record in the majors.
"I don't get caught up in numbers, so I really can't give you an answer," Jackson said. "It's hard to understand, though."
McCutchen drove a two-run shot to right field in the third inning then added an RBI-double in the fifth off Jackson (4-6) as the good vibes from Chicago's 5-1 homestand vanished. Ike Davis hit his fifth homer for Pittsburgh while Starling Marte broke out of a lengthy slump with three hits.
Starlin Castro went 3 for 4 with his eighth home run and two RBIs for Chicago, but the Cubs were never in it. Jackson surrendered four runs in six innings and is 1-4 since April 30.
"We try to figure out what it is but we haven't figured it out yet," Castro said. "You go back and see those games we play good at home and we should be playing that way on the road but we're not."
Charlie Morton (3-7) allowed one run over seven innings to win for the third time in his last four starts after beginning the season 0-6.
McCutchen finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs. The reigning NL MVP has four homers this month.
"I made a little minor adjustment now I'm seeing the ball a little longer and being able to get the barrel to it," McCutchen said. "When I get the barrel to it, good things happen."
It wasn't exactly the way the Cubs were hoping to start a 10-game road swing. Chicago won five straight last week — all at Wrigley — and hoped the momentum would carry over.
It didn't. Morton made sure of it. For seven innings, the right-hander avoided the control problems that have plagued him much of the season. Morton came in with a major-league high 13 hit batters while averaging nearly 2.5 walks per start.
There were no such issues against Chicago. By the time Castro drilled a Morton offering to deep right-center to score Anthony Rizzo with two outs in the sixth, the Cubs were already trailing 4-1, with most of the damage done by McCutchen.
Twice Jackson pounded the outside of the plate to the right-handed McCutchen. Twice McCutchen waited before driving the ball the opposite way.
"I got to do a better job of mixing up instead do getting beat with same pitch twice," Jackson said. "I let the guy who's the threat on the team beat my twice and you can't do that."
Marte, who began the night 0 for his last 23, doubled home Pedro Alvarez to give the Pirates the lead in the first. McCutchen pushed it to 3-0 in the third when he patiently waited as Jackson worked him away before reaching out and sending a pitch into the first row of seats in right for his fourth homer this month.
McCutchen nearly did it again two innings later, lacing a double off the wall in right to score Travis Snider and give Morton all the cushion he would need. Bothered by some bad luck early in the season, Morton lowered his ERA to 3.14 and struck out seven.
NOTES: Chicago RF Ryan Sweeney went 0 for 2 in a rehab start for Class A Kane County on Monday night. Sweeney went on the DL May 3 with a right hamstring strain. ... Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison made an emergency start at second base in place of Neil Walker, who underwent an appendectomy after experiencing abdominal pain and was placed on the 15-day DL. The Pirates called up coveted OF prospect Gregory Polanco to fill Walker's roster spot. ... The series continues Tuesday. Travis Wood (5-5, 5.04 ERA) starts for the Cubs against Francisco Liriano (1-6, 4.54). Wood is 2-4 with an 8.04 ERA on the road this season.
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