Pirates off to best start since 1996


CHICAGO (AP) -- Dave Williams gave up a controversial homer to
Sammy Sosa, but that's about all the Chicago Cubs could muster off
the Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander in their home opener.

Williams pitched six strong innings as the surprising Pirates
won for the third time in four games -- their best start since 1996
-- by beating the Cubs 2-1 Friday.

Before a chilled crowd of 40,155, Williams gave up just two hits
and Pittsburgh rallied for the go-ahead run in the seventh on an
infield single by Jack Wilson.

Trailing 1-0, Pittsburgh pushed across two runs off Jason Bere
(0-1) on back-to-back doubles by Aramis Ramirez and Rob Mackowiak,
a passed ball by catcher Todd Hundley and a two-out RBI single by
Wilson, who just beat out a bouncing ball behind the second-base

Sosa's disputed homer -- his third homer in as many games -- was a
low line drive to the opposite field.

First base umpire and crew chief Larry Young initially ruled the
ball did not clear the short fence in right field as a disbelieving
Sosa held at first.

After Cubs manager Don Baylor came out to argue, Young conferred
with his crew and signaled a home run. Pirates manager Lloyd
McClendon stormed out of the dugout to argue as Sosa rounded the

TV replays were inconclusive as to whether Sosa's ball clipped
the top of the fence and bounced back.

The Cubs' lone hit before Sosa's homer was a soft single to
right by Alex Gonzalez in the second. Chicago loaded the bases in
the seventh off reliever Sean Lowe before Joe Beimel retired Delino
DeShields on a fly to left.

Bere retired the first nine batters and allowed just five hits
in 6 2/3 innings. But Williams, who struck out eight, was better.

Mike Williams pitched the ninth for his third save.

Game notes
Ron Santo, walking to the mound with just the aid of a
cane, threw out the first pitch to a thunderous ovation Friday.
Santo lost a leg to diabetes in December and now wears a
prosthesis. Before bouncing a throw to former Cubs catcher Randy
Hundley, Santo also got a big hug from another ex-teammate, Billy
Williams. Santo waved to the crowd as he walked off the field and
then was driven in a golf cart up a stadium ramp to the press box
to his duties as a radio color analyst. ... Game-time temperature
was 40 degrees with a chilly 14 mph wind from the northwest on a
raw day. ... Brian Giles missed his fourth straight game with a
pulled muscle in his right side, an injury he sustained while
taking batting practice Monday in New York.