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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Wood continues strong start for Cubs' staff

By Jesse Rogers

Nate Schierholtz
Nate Schierholtz made a great catch to help secure the Cubs' series win.
PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Travis Wood nearly matched teammate Jeff Samardzija's Opening Day performance in a Cubs 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Wood went six innings, giving up just one hit and two walks -- and no runs.

"I had good fastball command," Wood said after the game. "I was able to locate it both sides and keep them off balance."

Wood is an ‘X' factor in the Cubs rotation, meaning no one really knows what to expect after an up-and-down 2012 (6-13, 4.27 ERA). His strong finish last year gave hope to a strong start. After throwing just 85 pitches in six innings on Thursday manager Dale Sveum had a decision to make -- leave him in for another inning or pull him? Teammate Jeff Samardzija threw 110 over eight innings on Opening Day.

"I thought about it," Sveum said. "(But) he did his job. He was probably going to end up at 100 if I let him go back out. The bullpen was all set up."

Of course Wood wanted to pitch another inning.

"Pretty bad but it worked out in the end," he said.

If he keeps performing like he did on Thursday he'll have plenty of chances to pitch deep into games. A key will be his consistency starting with his next game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

Schierholtz home run: New right fielder Nate Schierholtz provided some much needed insurance in the form of his first home run as a Cub on Thursday. It came with two outs and a runner on in the ninth inning extending a 1-0 lead.

"That was a home run off a guy (Jared Hughes) that doesn't give up home runs," Sveum said. "And to hit the ball to straight-away center was pretty impressive."

It was a little left of center. An important point considering gap power is very much needed at Wrigley Field with its strange wind and temperature patterns. It's also where hitters like to put the ball.

"Definitely," Schierholtz said with a smile. "Way more so than pulling a ball because all hitters know you can pull a ball out of a yard but as long as I keep that approach and driving the ball that way then I know things are on time and feeling good."

Schierholtz is a key member in the Cubs lineup batting fifth, behind the Cubs top hitters.

Notes

Matt Garza threw 25 pitches off a mound in Mesa, Ariz. on Thursday. The plan is for him to repeat that on Sunday in Atlanta where he'll re-join the team. Garza isn't expected to pitch in a game until May.

• Schierholt'z last home run before Thursday came on August 1 of last year against current teammate Edwin Jackson, formerly of Washington.

Brent Lillibridge is 0-9 on the season after going 0-3 in each of the first three games.

Quotes:
• "Could have been 0-3 really. We were ahead in both ball games. To start on the road to win 2 out of 3, that's a good start." -- Sveum, on the fine line between wins and losses so far.

• "Really sharp today. That last strikeout, had a lot of life on that fastball." -- Sveum, on set-up man Kyuji Fujikawa's perfect 8th inning.