CHICAGO - The Pirates were clinging to a one-run lead. Then, in a flash, this one became a breeze.
Michael McKenry and Starling Marte homered to back a strong start by Jeff Karstens, and Pittsburgh pulled away to beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-4, on Wednesday.
Garrett Jones added two hits and drove in three runs after entering in the eighth as a pinch-hitter. Andrew McCutchen chipped in with two hits and scored three times, and the Pirates broke this one open late.
They rebounded from a lopsided loss on Monday to take two of three from the Cubs. Now, after a day off, they'll head to Cincinnati for a three-game series with the NL Central-leading Reds.
"I'm going to give you something real generic," manager Clint Hurdle said, before doing just that. "We'll be there on time and we'll be ready to play. We're not in such a hurry to process all of this information. We've just won this series. We'll travel. We'll get there."
As for this game, the Pirates were leading 2-1 going into the eighth when this one got out of hand. They started the onslaught with seven straight hits against Shawn Camp and sent 10 batters to the plate in a five-run outburst.
Jones, batting for Gaby Sanchez, drove in two with a single and McKenry made it 7-1 with a three-run drive to left - his 10th homer.
"He tried to throw a BP sinker down and in," McKenry said. "I just tried to look for a ball a little bit elevated with a sinker guy."
McKenry connected, and the Pirates could breathe a little easier.
That late burst aside, it was a rather quiet day at Wrigley Field after a wild one on Tuesday. Not only did the Cubs trade pitcher Ryan Dempster to Texas before the non-waiver deadline, A.J. Burnett took a no-hitter into the eighth inning for Pittsburgh.
Karstens (4-2) wasn't quite as dominant, but he sure was good. He allowed three hits and one run over five innings, striking out four and walking one.
He settled down after Starlin Castro's solo homer to left in the first and retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
Travis Wood (4-7) was a tough-luck loser and dropped his fourth straight start after winning four in a row. He gave up two runs and three hits over five innings, but two plays in the third cost him.
First, he gave up a leadoff homer to Marte. Then, the left-hander balked in another run to make it 2-1.
Otherwise, Wood pitched well enough, but the Cubs couldn't get anything going until the ninth. The Pirates brought in closer Joel Hanrahan with an 8-1 lead and he gave up three runs, including a two-run homer by Welington Castillo. But the game was well in hand after Camp got knocked around.
"We'll take Camp out there, the way he's done all year," Chicago's Jeff Baker said.
McKenry has been impressed, too.
"Camp's been really good this year," he said. "We just hung in there with him and got the barrel on the ball. We found some holes and blew it open a little bit."
Game notes: Sanchez started at first and was 0 for 2 with a walk in his Pirates debut. He was acquired from Florida before Tuesday's trade deadline and was looking forward to a fresh start. "I think it will be good coming over here," said Sanchez, who entered with a .202 batting average. "A relaxed coaching staff. A relaxed team. Everybody wants to have fun." The past few days have been eventful for Sanchez. Along with the trade there was the birth of his daughter on Friday. ... The Pirates optioned pitcher Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room on the roster for reliever Chad Qualls.