The Pirates hobble into Wrigley Field this weekend losers of four straight and already matching their regular-season loss total from last season with 68.
The good news for the Bucs is that they're still in the thick of the playoff hunt, and have 23 games left to put themselves in a postseason position. They'll look to end their skid Friday afternoon against the Cubs.
"We've gotta keep battling, keep going, keep moving," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "We're coming into a hot team like the Cubs, who are swinging really well. We've got to stay on top of our game, and try to finish strong."
Pittsburgh comes into the series after dropping a Sunday game against the Reds and then being swept out of St. Louis. The Pirates' most recent loss came Wednesday in walk-off fashion as Peter Bourjos' single gave the Cardinals a 1-0 win and five-game lead over the Bucs in the National League Central. The Pirates also trail Milwaukee by two games for the second NL Wild Card spot.
Pittsburgh was outscored by just four runs in the three-game series, and lost two one-run games. They're now 2-12 in games decided by one run against the Cardinals and Brewers this season.
"This was a great series. Nip-and-tuck and push-and-shove and tug-of-war every step," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We battled, threw everything we had at them. They were just a little bit better than us in every game.
"We're playing competitive baseball, we've just got find a way to score a run every now and then. We're not gonna back down. We'll take the day off, catch our breath, and put some stakes down in Chicago -- and get ready to throw everything we got at the Cubs."
Vance Worley -- who got the win the last time the Pirates notched one in the "W" column -- will look to point the team back in the right direction. The right-hander threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one earned run against the Reds on Saturday, as the Pirates held on for a 3-2 win.
Japanese rookie Tsuyoshi Wada will get the ball for the Cubs. It will be the 10th Major League start for the 33-year-old, his first against the Pirates.
Wada has had quality starts in five of those starts, including his previous appearance, when he allowed three earned runs in six innings to the Cardinals. Wada took the loss in the start, which ended a personal three-game winning streak. However, he has a 2.25 ERA and .195 opponents' batting average in his last four starts.
Pirates: Harrison named NL Player of the Month
Josh Harrison has gone from a utility man who played sparingly to NL All-Star to the NL's best player -- at least for the most recent full month on the calendar.
Harrison was named the NL Player of the Month for August on Wednesday after leading the league in extra-base hits (19), slugging percentage (.602) and hits (41). Harrison had a .976 OPS in the month and a .347 average, which pushed him into the conversation for the NL batting title.
The 27-year-old settled into a role as the Bucs' everyday third baseman, and had nine RBIs in the month -- five of which came Aug. 22 against Milwaukee. Harrison had another impressive performance a week later, when he hit the game-tying triple, scored the game-winning run and made a trio of highlight-reel plays in a 2-1 win against the Reds.
Harrison is the second Pittsburgh player to win the award this season, joining reigning NL MVP Award winner McCutchen, who earned the distinction for June.
Cubs: Kalish returns; Olt could be next
The Cubs selected the contract of outfielder Ryan Kalish from Triple-A Iowa and transferred outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday. And Mike Olt may join the big league team by Friday.
Kalish, 26, was on the Cubs' Opening Day roster and batted .242 in 39 big league games before being optioned to Iowa on May 26. He hit .251 with 14 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 37 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 87 games with the Minor League team.
Sweeney was placed on the disabled list Aug. 27 with a left hamstring strain and had been rehabbing at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz. General manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday that Sweeney was not expected back this season.
Olt also began the season with the Cubs, but the third baseman was demoted to Iowa on July 22 after batting .139 in 72 games, hitting 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. He ended the season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, and began a rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Kane County. Olt went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer on Wednesday and was expected to play Thursday for the Cougars, who are in the Midwest League playoffs. If all continues as planned, Olt will join the Cubs Friday.
• The Cubs, who will send three lefty starters to the mound in the series, have won a season-high six consecutive home games dating to Aug. 22, and are now two games above .500 at Wrigley Field this season with a 35-33 record.
• The Pirates are 44-28 at home this season, but just 27-40 on the road. The Bucs had a .543 winning percentage away from PNC Park last season, going 44-37.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.