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Sloppy, but Cubs will take it
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Ted Lilly gave up five earned runs and couldn't make it out of the fourth inning.


Associated Press

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Published: 4/7/2008 5:42 PM | Updated: 4/7/2008 9:47 PM

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PITTSBURGH -- Just last week, Cubs manager Lou Piniella was saying he'd rather play poorly and win than play well and lose.

That, of course, wasn't a wish, but Piniella saw just such a sloppy scenario unfold Monday during a 10-8 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the PNC Park opener for 2008.

"You know what? I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty," Piniella restated following the 4-hour, 47-minute game.

The Cubs frittered away a 7-0 third-inning lead, as starting pitcher Ted Lilly couldn't make it out of the fourth.

Once again, the Cubs looked bad in the field, with 3 errors, including another late-inning bobble by second baseman Mark DeRosa.

The Pirates helped to paint a mustache on this one, too, as their pitchers walked 11 batters, with their fielders committing a pair of errors.

On top of that, Jose Bautista tried to bunt with one out and runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at 8-8. Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee tagged Bautista and held the runner at third, setting the stage for Cubs reliever Jon Lieber to retire the side and keep the game going.

The Cubs finally took what the Pirates were giving in the 12th when they scored twice without a hit. Aramis Ramirez lifted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, and DeRosa walked with the bases loaded to put the Cubs ahead for good.

Is that ugly enough?

"I don't think any of them are ugly," said Cubs center fielder Reed Johnson, who scored a pair of runs. "We're happy to have a victory, especially with an off-day tomorrow.

"That's a bad feeling, to lose a game like that when you have an off-day. You've got all day to think about it and the next day, too. We're pretty excited right now as a team."

The game was played under bright sunshine, and the forecast early on was clear sailing for the Cubs after they scored once in the second inning and six times in the third to chase Pirates lefty Tom Gorzelanny.

The big hit in the third was a bases-loaded double to center by Ronny Cedeno, making his first start of the year at shortstop.

Lilly looked fine in the first 3 innings, throwing first-pitch strikes to all 11 batters he faced. But he was gone in the fourth after throwing his 35th pitch of the inning, a pitch that Nate McLouth launched for a triple.

"That's going to happen, even when you're throwing the ball well -- you're going to get out of sync for a hitter or two," said Lilly, whose ERA rose from 7.71 to 9.72 after his second poor start. "You have to find a way to get back into rhythm and make the necessary adjustments.

"I wasn't able to do that, especially the last at-bat to McLouth. I almost felt like I was maybe at that point trying to force the ball in there and going a little too fast. It was rough, and somehow I'm smiling right now."

The Cubs put across a run in the sixth before the Pirates got a pair in their half of the sixth against Kevin Hart and an unearned run in the seventh against Michael Wuertz.

The big play came with two outs and Bautista on second. Nyjer Morgan grounded the ball to DeRosa, who fumbled it for his second key error in four games.

"This game challenges you in different ways," DeRosa said. "One thing I've always prided myself on is being able to field a groundball. First seven games, it doesn't appear to be that way right now. Fast baserunner. Tried to get rid of it quick. I probably let it play me a little bit.

"I'm just tired of it. You mind it, but you don't mind making errors at inconsequential times. That game should have been over an hour-and-a-half ago."

Lieber (1-1), a starting pitcher forced into the bullpen, saved the day for the Cubs by working out of trouble in the ninth and again in the 11th. Carlos Marmol got the actual save with a scoreless bottom of the 12th.

"You know, I guess it's been OK," Lieber said of his new role. "I've been able to deal with it. Wherever they need me."

Cubs 10, Pirates 8 (12)

At the plate: Kosuke Fukudome was 3-for-5 with 2 walks and an RBI. His on-base percentage is .581, and his slugging percentage is .708. Aramis Ramirez drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 12th. Geovany Soto was 3-for-7 with a double and 2 RBI. Ronny Cedeno drove in 3 with a third-inning double.

On the mound: Ted Lilly had a 7-0 lead in the third inning but couldn't make it out of the fourth. In 32/3 innings, he allowed 7 hits and 5 runs. Kevin Hart allowed a pair of runs. Michael Wuertz suffered a blown save, but that came on an unearned run. Jon Lieber (1-1) got the win with 3 innings of hitless relief. Carlos Marmol earned his first save.

In the field: Ronny Cedeno, Mark DeRosa and Aramis Ramirez each committed an error. The Cubs have 8 errors for the season.

-- Bruce Miles