Lofton extended his hitting streak to a career-high 25 games with three hits and Ramirez recorded his seventh career four-hit game as the Pirates posted a 9-4 triumph over the
Pittsburgh posted its third straight victory and has scored 27 runs over that span. Lofton and Ramirez sparked the 14-hit attack and played key roles during a three-run third inning that gave starter
(5-5) a 4-0 lead.
Lofton's streak is the third-longest in team history, the longest in the National League this season and second-longest in the major leagues in 2003 - trailing only the 26-game run by Boston's
, which ended Tuesday.
Lofton's streak has helped some of Pittsburgh's other hitters come around, especially Ramirez. Ramirez hit .300 in 2001, but fell to .234 last season.
"Kenny is really setting the tone for us right now," Pittsburgh left fielder
said. "His aggressive style of hitting and offensive play have put us in a real good situation - all the guys living off of it."
This season Ramirez was off to another slow start before going on an 11-game hitting streak that has raised his batting average 70 points to .288.
"I'm seeing the ball real well now and I'm getting lucky," Ramirez said. "But the important thing for me is being able to put the ball in play."
The Pirates followed up their nine-run eighth inning in the series opener Monday by scoring at least eight runs for the sixth time in 10 games.
After the four-run third, Pittsburgh added a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and one apiece in the sixth and seventh, opening a 9-2 cushion.
Benson gave up four runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings and won for the first time in three starts. He also posted just his third victory in nine career decisions against the Cubs.
With the lead sliced to 4-2, Benson surrendered a base hit to Troy O'Leary that brought the tying run up. But he struck out
and retired the next nine hitters before allowing a leadoff single to pinch hitter
and a two-out homer to
in the eighth.
Benson threw 116 pitches and was chased after
followed Patterson's homer with a single.
took over and finished the eighth.
gave up a walk in the ninth, but completed Pittsburgh's fourth road win in five games.
The Pirates have not had a complete game in nearly a year - a span of 144 games. Manager
was hoping Benson could go the distance, but decided to pull him.
"I thought he was going to be the one to break the streak for us," McClendon said. "Benson was pitching well tonight, but in the eighth inning, he got pretty close to where his pitch count was going to be and that was it."
"I knew my pitch count was getting up there," Benson added. "But I was hoping to pitch a complete game. They fouled off a lot of pitches towards the end and made me go deeper into the count than I wanted to. The important thing is we got the win." Chicago starter
(2-6) continued to struggle, allowing seven runs and nine hits in five innings. He has tied a career high with five straight losses.
"Pitching here isn't always that easy," said Clement, who also dropped five consecutive decisions from April 9-May 23, 1999 while with San Diego. "I'm going through a bad phase right now and I feel like I have let the guys down right now. However, I'm still very confident and I feel I''ll turn the corner on this tough situation."
Clement struggled from the outset, giving up a two-out walk to Giles in the first and a pair of singles to Ramirez and
. Young's single made it 1-0, but Clement retired Kendall on a groundout
After the Pirates went in order in the second, Lofton led off the third with a double just inside the right field line.
Lofton took third on
's sacrifice. After Giles drew his second walk, Lofton scored on Ramirez's base hit. Simon followed with his second run-scoring single and Kendall's groundout capped the scoring.
In the fourth, Clement again got two outs. But Lofton singled and scored on Reboulet's double.
Lofton went 3-for-5 and is hitting .387 (41-for-101) during his tear. He maintains that the key is the combination of timely hitting and effective pitching.
"I can't really say that because there's times where we've hit well and we've lost," Lofton said. "The key is that the pitching and the hitting have come together at the same time."
The Cubs, who either have been tied or maintained sole possession of first place in the National League Central since April 15, lost for the seventh time in 11 games and were held to four runs or less for the 10th time in 12 contests.
"We're in this 20-game in a row stretch and it doesn't end until Thursday," Chicago manager
said. "My guys are tired, but we're not quitting."
's two-run double turned the contest into a rout and run-scoring base hits by Giles in the sixth and Lofton in the seventh capped the scoring for Pittsburgh.