Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Friday, May 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A.J. Burnett and four relievers worked out of trouble all game and the Pittsburgh Pirates sent the Chicago Cubs to their 10th straight loss with a 1-0 victory on Friday night.
Burnett (3-2) gave up six hits, struck out six and walked two over 5 1-3 innings and the National League's best bullpen made it stand up as the Pirates extended Chicago starter Ryan Dempster's misery. Joel Hanrahan worked out of a two-on, one out jam in the ninth for his 11th save.
Dempster (0-3) remains winless since last August, surrendering one run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings, striking out six and walking one while dropping his ERA to 2.14.
Still, it wasn't enough to keep the Cubs from posting their first 10-game losing streak since dropping the first 14 games of the 1997 season.
The Cubs left 11 runners on base and went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position.
Pittsburgh wasn't much better but only needed Rod Barajas' RBI-single in the third to beat floundering Chicago.
The Cubs started the season 13-11 but have sunk to the bottom of the NL Central thanks to an offense that has stopped producing. They have scored just four runs in their last 56 innings.
Chicago had plenty of chances, putting at least one runner in scoring position in all but two innings, but Burnett relied on his slider and his defense to wiggle free on a night where he labored to get through Chicago's struggling lineup.
Burnett needed 105 pitches to get 16 outs and took advantage of some nifty glovework by third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who saved at least one run in the fifth by making a diving stab at a sharp grounder by Joe Mather then fired to first to nip the runner.
Chicago threatened again an inning later only to run itself out of a two-on, one-out situation when Alfonso Soriano crashed into Alvarez trying to move from second to third on a groundball by Darwin Barnes. Soriano was called out due to runners' interference and reliever Jared Hughes got Koyle Hill to ground meekly to second to end the threat.
The Cubs ran out of chances once the Pirates got to their bullpen, which leads the National League in ERA. Jason Grilli struck out the side in the seventh, Juan Cruz picked off Chicago's Tony Campana at second base to cut short a rally in the eighth before Hanrahan took over in the ninth.
Chicago put runners on the corners with one out on singles by Barney and pinch-hitter Reed Johnson but Hanrahan struck out David DeJesus and Starlin Castro to end it.
The loss was more of the same for Dempster, who hasn't won in a stretch of 17 starts. He's been among the best pitchers in the NL this season, but has been undone by a lack of run support.
The Cubs have scored just 16 runs in Dempster's eight starts this season.