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Cubs-Pirates Preview

AP - Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up right where they left off after a memorable 2013 season, winning their opener in thrilling fashion.

The Chicago Cubs are coming off a miserable 2013 and are hoping a disappointing showing in their first game isn't a sign of things to come.

The Pirates look to build on a dramatic victory when they continue their series against the Cubs on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh has lofty goals for 2014 after ending a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons by making the playoffs for the first time since 1992 last year. Opening day starters Francisco Liriano and Jeff Samardzija shut down the hitters Monday, but Neil Walker sent the crowd into a frenzy by leading off the 10th inning with a home run to give the Pirates a 1-0 win.

''This one feels pretty special,'' Walker said. ''This is a special day for this team, this organization. We've come a long way.''

Prior to Walker's homer, Pittsburgh had managed four singles and a double. Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen went 1 for 3 with a walk while cleanup hitter Pedro Alvarez was 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts.

McCutchen may have better luck against Edwin Jackson (8-18, 4.98 ERA), but Alvarez could have another tough time at the plate.

Jackson led the majors in losses in 2013 and had the second-worst ERA among qualifying pitchers in the NL. Despite a forgettable season, he had moderate success against the Pirates, going 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA in four starts.

He's had few answers for McCutchen, though, who is 8 for 20 with two homers and two doubles lifetime against the right-hander. Alvarez and Walker haven't fared well against Jackson, with each going 2 for 15.

The Pirates turn to Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.26), who is hoping to build on an encouraging finish to 2013 after missing most of 2012 and the first 2 1/2 months of last season due to elbow reconstruction surgery.

The right-hander agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract in December after going 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his final 11 regular-season starts last season, surrendering one homer in 67 1-3 innings. He gave up two runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 2-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 4 of the NL division series.

"He's got the stuff to get it done," manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates' official website. "I think he's finally aware of it, and has bought into it."

Morton had a 2.25 ERA in two September outings against the Cubs last season, and is 2-4 with a 4.91 ERA in nine career starts against them. He posted a 0.82 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts.

Chicago went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and struck out 11 times overall Monday. Leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio was 4 for 5 but was picked off first base on an overturned replay with one out in the top of the 10th.

Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Olt - Chicago's Nos. 3-5 hitters - were 0 for 10 with five strikeouts.

"We're a very confident group," Rizzo told the Cubs' official website. "It's a tough loss, obviously, but it's one game. No one's going home yet. It's nice to have the energy in here. Runs will be scored."

Rizzo is 1 for 9 against Morton while Bonifacio is 2 for 9 off him with five strikeouts.

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