Cubs 3, Pirates 2

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- If their first starts of the season are any indication, Travis Wood and James McDonald appear to have bounced back quite well from their second halves of 2012.
However, Wood was a touch better on Thursday as the Chicago Cubs got their elusive first hit with a runner in scoring position and two-run homer from Nate Schierholtz to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 at PNC Park.
The Cubs had to survive a near ninth-inning meltdown by closer Carlos Marmol. Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez hit consecutive RBI singles with no outs to make it a one-run game with the tying run on third base. But Pedro Alvarez struck out ahead of Neil Walker's game-ending double play grounder.
Wood (1-0) pitched six scoreless innings to help the Cubs win two of three games in the season-opening series. He allowed only one hit -- a one-out double by Clint Barmes in the third inning -- while striking out four and walking two.
McDonald (0-1) was also superb in defeat, as he allowed one run on two hits in seven innings. He also had four strikeouts and two walks.
Schierholtz, signed as a free agent in the offseason, hit his first home with Chicago, a two-run shot to center in the ninth inning off Jared Hughes that pushed the Cubs' lead to 3-0.
That gave Marmol some breathing room, but it still almost wasn't enough. Manager Dale Sveum removed his closer from the ninth inning of the Cubs' 3-1 win over the Pirates in Monday's opener.
The starting pitchers' performances were in stark contrast to how they ended last season.
Wood went 2-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 16 starts after the All-Star break, following a first half in which he was 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 10 starts.
McDonald stumbled to a 3-5 record with a 7.52 ERA in the second half after a sparkling first half that saw him go 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts.
The Cubs broke a scoreless tie in the third inning when Starlin Castro laced a two-out single to center field to score Wood, who had singled. Prior to that, Chicago batters were 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position.
NOTES: Pittsburgh right fielder Garrett Jones wasn't in Thursday's lineup as the Pirates faced a lefty for the first time this season in Wood. While manager Clint Hurdle stopped short of saying Jones would never start against a lefty, he likely won't see much time against them. Jones batted just .198 with a .237 on-base percentage and a .353 slugging percentage in 503 career plate appearances against southpaws, but has a .278/.347/.502 line in 1,594 plate appearances against righties ... Chicago opens a three-game series at Atlanta on Friday night with right-hander Scott Feldman facing Braves left-hander Mike Minor. ... The Pirates play the Dodgers in Los Angeles Friday night in the opener of a three-game set with left-hander Jonathan Sanchez opposing right-hander Zack Greinke.

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