(Sports Network) - It has been more than a month since the Pirates last won on the road. It's been even longer since starter Jeff Karstens has found the win column himself.
Pittsburgh will try to halt a 14-game road skid while Karstens aims to snap a string of eight straight losing decisions this evening in the continuation of a three-game set with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Pirates were thumped, 14-2, by the Cubs in last night's opener, marking just fourth loss in 13 games versus Chicago this year. The pounding also prevented Pittsburgh from notching its first road win since July 28.
"It's hard to say, it could be just coincidence," said Garrett Jones when asked to explain the Pirates' struggles on the road. "When you have your home crowd behind you, it helps a little bit more, gives us that little extra. We're capable of playing better on the road, there should be no excuses."
Paul Maholm came into last night's start with a 7-1 career mark versus the Cubs, but he yielded eight runs over 3 1/3 innings to take the loss, also Pittsburgh's fourth in a row overall.
Hoping to snap both skids will be Karstens, who hasn't won since June 19, posting 11 consecutive winless appearances since. He has pitched to a 7.65 earned run average in losing all four of his August starts and is coming off arguably his worst outing of the season versus the Mets on Aug. 20.
The 27-year-old was charged with seven runs on 11 hits over just 3 1/3 innings, falling to 2-10 with a 4.98 ERA in 24 games this year, including 18 starts. Karstens, who had his last start skipped due to arm fatigue, is also 0-6 with a 4.48 ERA on the road in 2010.
Karstens, a right-hander, lost to the Cubs on June 29 even though he only gave up two earned runs over six innings and is 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA in his career versus Chicago.
The Cubs will try to post some more big innings tonight like the ones that helped them win on Monday. Five different players drove in a run during a seven-run fourth inning last night, while starter Carlos Zambrano contributed a two-run homer during a four-run fifth frame.
Aramis Ramirez led the offense with four RBI, while Marlon Byrd and Jeff Baker each had two of Chicago's 18 hits in helping the club to its fifth win in seven games.
In addition to his first homer of the year and 21st of his career, Zambrano got the win on the mound after giving up one unearned run on four hits and four walks over 5 1/3 innings of work.
"He's throwing strikes and he's relaxed," said interim manager Mike Quade, who won his home debut, of Zambrano. "When he's going good, whether it's early in the year or whether it's a couple of years ago, there seem to be some similar components to me. He's got great movement on his fastball and he's throwing his slider for strikes."
Cubs catcher Geovany Soto is day-to-day due to swelling in his right knee, meaning Koyie Hill is likely to catch Ryan Dempster tonight.
Dempster is 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA over his last five starts and he beat the Nationals on Wednesday. Dempster was lifted for a pinch-hitter after seven scoreless innings of two-hit and just 79 pitches, striking out eight in the 4-0 triumph.
"Especially when a guy's got such a low pitch count, [Dempster] wanted no part of coming out," Quade told Chicago's website. "He wasn't happy about that, and that's OK, I don't want guys happy. But I think you've got to try and win the game.
The 33-year-old right-hander is 12-8 with a 3.42 ERA this year, but has lost both of his 2010 starts to the Pirates, yielding six runs over 14 innings.