PITTSBURGH -- Watching ace Jeff Samardzija get knocked around Thursday night wasn't nearly as painful for the Cubs as seeing Emilio Bonifacio hurt his right rib cage, an injury that could sideline him for an indefinite period.
Bonifacio appears headed to the 15-day disabled list as he fell out of the batter's box in pain immediately after hitting a grounder to shortstop to start the game. Bonifacio, who has stabilized the Cubs' leadoff position, will be examined Friday in Chicago.
His injury was the start of a dreary 4-0 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park, where Samardzija (2-6) was tagged for a season-high nine hits in six-plus innings and didn't receive any run support for the fifth time. The game was delayed for one hour, 14 minutes by rain with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
Offensively, the Cubs provided no support as they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"It's kind of a coincidence when Jeff is pitching," manager Rick Renteria said after the Cubs were blanked for the ninth time this year while falling to 11-24 on the road.
Replacing Bonifacio will be a big challenge. Bonifacio, who didn't join the Cubs until the start of spring training after the Royals released him, has batted leadoff in 56 of the Cubs' 64 games and provided a spark for the first six weeks of the season while leading the team with 13 stolen bases.
Outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who has been sidelined since suffering a right hamstring strain May 2, likely will be activated if Bonifacio is placed on the DL. Sweeney was pulled from the starting lineup Thursday night with Class A Kane County, where he is 0-for-5 in two games on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
With Bonifacio out, Renteria will have more reason to play Luis Valbuena, who had two hits and was 8-for-14 in this four-game series, at third base or at second and give Mike Olt another shot at breaking out of an 0-for-19 slump that has dropped his average to .150.
Valbuena is batting .389 in his last 23 games since May 13.
Chris Coghlan replaced Bonifacio in the lineup, but the lack of an extra bench player (with eight relievers) showed the Cubs' lack of depth in the seventh when Samardzija hit for himself with one out in the seventh down four runs.
Samardzija whacked a double to right-center but was left stranded as Coghlan and Junior Lake grounded out. Lake was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts with runners in scoring position.
Samardzija, who had a lifetime 0.61 ERA at PNC Park entering Thursday, was haunted by Andrew McCutchen, who doubled to fuel a two-run fourth and had a two-run triple in the fifth.
"I thought I had good stuff," said Samardzija, whose fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph. "I just feel like they jumped on my mistakes, to tell you the truth. I felt I had pretty good command, but they didn't let me get away with anything."
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