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Jeff Samardzija, Cubs win on Opening Day over Pirates 3-1

Chicago Cubs right fielder David DeJesus (9) celebrates with teammates after being introduced before seasopening baseball game against Pittsburgh Pirates

Chicago Cubs right fielder David DeJesus (9) celebrates with teammates after being introduced before a season opening baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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Updated: April 2, 2013 1:41AM



PITTSBURGH – It was only a start, but it was a least a first step for Jeff Samardzija in proving this year what he didn’t get a chance to prove last year.

The Cubs’ 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates also showed how far the field staff’s patience level with Carlos Marmol has eroded as the closer enters the final year of his contract.

And the ascension many expected from Kyuji Fujikawa when he was signed as a free agent over the winter came barely eight innings into the new season.

Fujikawa, a former All-Star closer in Japan, got the final out in the ninth inning with two on to earn the Cubs’ first save of the year.

Samardzija pitched eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball for the victory – but not before Marmol put three of the first four batters he faced on base and was yanked in favor of left-hander James Russell.

Russell retired his batter, and Fujikawa needed just two pitches to finish it off.

Until the ninth-inning drama, Samardzija put on a pitching clinic at PNC Park – the same place the club shut him down last year because a predetermined innings limit.

Samardzija wasn’t happy then and said Saturday one of the biggest reasons was because he felt strong enough to get to 200 innings in his first full season as a starter.

Eight down, 192 to go this time around.

Samardzija walked the first batter he faced, and fill-in second baseman Brent Lillibridge muffed a grounder by the ensuing batter to put men at first and second with none out.

But Samardzija then retired 17 of the next 18 he faced and 24 of the final 26 he faced.

He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter after the first guy in the 110-pitch performance.

Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs the lead before Samardzija ever took the mound – crushing the first pitch he saw of the season for a two-run homer that cleared the bleachers in right-center and, presumably, bounced into the Alleghany River.

Nate Schierholtz, who reached base four times, was hit by a pitch leading off the sixth and scored on Welington Castillo’s ensuing double for a 3-0 lead.



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