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Cubs hold on to salvage finale in Pittsburgh

Apr 4, 2014 - 12:24 AM Pittsburgh, PA ( - Emilio Bonifacio continued his blazing hot start with a pair of hits and two runs scored to back a strong effort from Jason Hammel in his Cubs debut, as Chicago salvaged the finale of a three-game set in Pittsburgh with a 3-2 victory over the Pirates on Thursday.

Mike Olt clubbed his first big league homer for the Cubs, who will open their home schedule on Friday afternoon against Philadelphia. Bonifacio was 2-for-4 with a double and finished 11-for-16 in the series.

"I only walked in (Wrigley Field) a couple times and last time I was in it it was snowing," Olt said when asked about Friday's home opener. "It will be nice to get over there. I'm excited for the opening day."

Hammel (1-0) yielded just two hits and one run with five strikeouts and one walk in 6 2/3 innings. He signed a one-year deal in the offseason after spending the past two seasons in Baltimore.

Wandy Rodriguez (0-1) went the first six innings for Pittsburgh and allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts. The lefty hadn't pitched in the majors since last June 5 because of forearm pain.

The Pirates won the first two games in walkoff fashion -- 1-0 on a 10th-inning homer by Neil Walker on Monday and 4-3 in a nearly six-hour, 16-inning marathon on Wednesday. Thursday's game started less than 12 hours after Tony Sanchez's game-winning hit on Wednesday.

"The three games have been tough," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who earned his first MLB win. "Taking this one home at the end feels very gratifying."

Sanchez drove in both Pittsburgh runs in the seventh inning and the Pirates had chances to pull it out against the Chicago bullpen.

The Pirates managed only a pair of singles through the first six innings and trailed 3-0, then chased Hammel in the seventh. After Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez were retired, Walker drew a walk to end Hammel's day and pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez doubled down the left field line off James Russell.

Justin Grimm was next on the hill and Tony Sanchez grounded a single up the middle to score both runners. Sanchez raced to second when the throw from center field went to the backstop, but Jordy Mercer flied harmlessly to right field to keep it a one-run game.

Pittsburgh threatened again in the eighth. Jose Tabata led off with a single and Grimm set down the next two batters on strikes, the first coming on a foul bunt attempt by Starling Marte. McCutchen drew a two-out walk to push the tying run to second, but Brian Schlitter retired Alvarez on a tapper up the first base line.

"We didn't have a bunt on with two strikes," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said about Marte's bunt attempt. "He was confident he could pull it off, but I told him I was confident he could hit it in the gap with two strikes."

The Pirates then got a leadoff single from Walker to start the ninth against Pedro Strop, but Gaby Sanchez popped up a bunt and Tony Sanchez hit a soft liner back to the mound that turned into an game-ending double play. Strop notched his first save.

"All in all, we won a series and we'll move on," added Hurdle.

Bonifacio's incredible start continued when he led off the game with a single, stole second with two outs and scored on a base hit by Anthony Rizzo.

Olt made it 2-0 with a leadoff homer in the second and Bonifacio was at it again in the third. He doubled to right field, took third on a single by Starlin Castro and scored on a double-play grounder by Justin Ruggiano.

Game Notes

Bonifacio also stole four bases during the series ... The Cubs haven't opened with three straight losses since an 0-14 start in 1997 ... The Pirates last started 3-0 in 2007 ... Pittsburgh will host St. Louis for three games this weekend, then will visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series, starting next Tuesday ... Rodriguez fell to 9-8 in 25 career starts against Chicago.