Astros 5, Cubs 3

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CHICAGO (AP)—Adam Everett’s milestone homer got the Astros out of an early season slump. It also ruined Chicago’s home opener that featured the Wrigley Field debuts of Lou Piniella and Alfonso Soriano in Cubs’ uniforms.

Everett hit a two-run homer off Bob Howry in the eighth inning Monday, sending the Astros to a 5-3 victory, just their second win this season in seven games.

“Oh goodness, when you open the season and you go 1-5 at home, that’s never good,” Everett said. “For us to come out here and get a win in the first game, that’s big for us.”

Everett hit just six homers last season but now has 34 for his career—the most by a shortstop in Astros history.

“It’s a nice honor,” Everett said. “Hopefully I can make the margin a little greater. But any time you’re the leader in anything in club history it’s pretty amazing.”

It was a bad way to start the home season for the Cubs, who committed more than $300 million to free agents and players already on the roster this offseason in an attempt to end a nearly centurylong drought without a World Series title.

The weather wasn’t great, either. It was a raw, overcast, 40-degree day and the ivy was a winter brown. The biggest spots of green on the old walls came from two new advertising signs for a sports wear company.

“The loss. That was the worst part,” Piniella said of his first game running the home dugout. “I mean, what are you going to do? We just lost it. We got beat. … Let’s hope we don’t have any more opening days this year, we’re 0-2 already.”

Soriano showed why the Cubs gave him a club-record $136 million, eight-year deal, using his speed and daring in the seventh inning to tie the game.

After he’d grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out, Soriano stole second and then scored when Jacque Jones hit a high chopper to second for an infield single and Craig Biggio threw low to first for an error.

“I looked at the plate and said to myself if he throws, I think I have a chance to make home because they are going to make two throws, one to first and one to plate,” Soriano said.

Soriano said he enjoyed his first game at the Cubs’ venerable neighborhood park where there was an announced crowd of 41,388. But he couldn’t make out what some of the fans in the bleachers were yelling at him.

“I was paying attention to the game, so it’s a little hard to understand what they say,” he said.

The 41-year-old Biggio also had a pair of doubles and scored twice as he continues his trek toward 3,000 hits—he is just 62 shy. And his two doubles gave him 640 for his career, tying Honus Wagner for eighth on the career list.

“It’s pretty special stuff,” Biggio said. “Having your name associated with Honus Wagner is pretty cool. Just play the game, that’s all that I’m doing.”

Astros starter Woody Williams allowed two runs and six hits in six innings before the Cubs tied it with the unearned run in the seventh off Chad Qualls (1-1).

Dan Wheeler pitched a perfect ninth for his first save in two chances. Wheeler was moved to closer before the game by manager Phil Garner, replacing struggling Brad Lidge.

Chicago left-hander Ted Lilly, one of the top offseason acquisitions, allowed three runs and six hits over six-plus innings.

Lilly gave up back-to-back doubles to the first two hitters he faced, Biggio and Chris Burke, before settling down and retiring the next 10 batters. But with one out in the fourth, Carlos Lee doubled and Morgan Ensberg followed with an RBI single.

Biggio doubled again in the fifth, moved up on a sacrifice and scored on Lance Berkman’s sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

Williams held the Cubs scoreless until the sixth, when Jones singled, moved up on an infield single and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single. With two outs, Michael Barrett delivered a run-scoring double to make it 3-2 and get the fans out of their seats.

Soriano got a loud ovation during pregame introductions and then gave the chilled crowd some early excitement with a leadoff bloop single in the first. When Derrek Lee followed one out later with another blooper, Soriano raced to third, where he was stranded by a popup and strikeout.

Notes

Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester threw out the first pitch. … Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he’s still confident the team will reach an agreement on a contract extension with RHP Carlos Zambrano, who got one of the loudest cheers during pregame introductions. … Seven of Houston’s nine hits were for extra bases.

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