Series: Game 1 of 3

Chi Cubs leads 1-0 (as of 4/18)

Game 1: Friday, April 18
Chi Cubs7Final
Game 2: Saturday, April 19
Chi Cubs6Final
in 10
Game 3: Sunday, April 20
Chi Cubs2Final

Cubs 7

(11-6, 4-3 away)

Pirates 2

(8-8, 2-5 home)

    7:05 PM ET, April 18, 2003

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

    123456789 R H E
    CHC 400000003 7 10 1
    PIT 010000001 2 3 1

    W: M. Clement (2-1)

    L: K. Benson (2-2)

    Clement allows two hits in seven innings

    PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Don't tell the Chicago Cubs it's too early in the season to get excited.

    Hee Seop Choi's two-run double helped Chicago open a four-run lead before Kris Benson retired a batter, and Matt Clement limited Pittsburgh to two hits over seven innings in the Cubs' 7-2 victory Friday night.

    The Cubs failed to score in double digits, as they did in their previous three games, but still won their fourth in a row to maintain their NL Central lead. They can match the club record of 16 April victories set in 1969 just by splitting their final 10 games this month.

    Clement said the difference in this Cubs team and the one that lost 95 games last season couldn't be more apparent.

    "It's great to just keep winning," he said. "This has been a lot of fun these first three weeks. You look around this clubhouse and see the talent we have, and have to think this could be a pretty exciting season."

    There was a much different look in the Pirates' clubhouse after their fifth loss in six games. Not only did they hold a meeting before the game, they held a lengthy one afterward -- a rarity so early in the season.

    Even when reporters were allowed in a half-hour after the game ended, several players could be heard yelling behind closed doors in a trainer's room.

    "It's good to see the players care," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "They're disappointed in their performance of late."

    "We've got to have meetings like this," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "It was very positive."

    Given a 4-0 lead before taking the mound, Clement (2-1) made his third successive strong start by striking out 10 and walking three -- the eighth time in his career he's struck out 10 or more.

    Clement, who grew up 40 miles from PNC Park, extended an ever-growing offensive slump that has seen the Pirates score more than three runs only once while losing eight of 12. They are 2-5 since top run producer Brian Giles was lost for two-to-four weeks with a knee injury.

    Clement was excited about pitching so close to home, even wearing a Pitt basketball T-shirt under his uniform.

    "You could see the look in his eye before the game, he was home and he wanted to win," manager Dusty Baker said.

    The Cubs, coming off a four-game series with the Reds in which the winning team scored at least 10 runs in every game, seemed intent on matching that as their first five batters reached against Benson (2-2). The right-hander began the game with an NL-leading 0.83 ERA.

    Mark Grudzielanek's leadoff single, Benson's two-base throwing error on a pickoff play -- the Pirates' 20th error in 16 games -- and Alex Gonzalez's RBI single quickly made it 1-0. Sammy Sosa singled and Moises Alou walked to load the bases.

    Choi, 4-for-8 with three homers in his previous three games, fouled off a series of pitches before lining a double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.

    "I just wanted to keep the at-bat going as long as I could and, luckily, I was finally able to get a pitch to hit after a long time," Choi said.

    Baker said, "That was a huge at-bat ... and a huge hit against a good pitcher. He wouldn't give in."

    The Pirates didn't get an out until Corey Patterson's sacrifice fly made it 4-0 on Benson's 25th pitch of the inning. Benson needed 35 pitches to get out of the first before settling down, limiting the Cubs to three singles over the next six innings.

    Without Giles and first baseman Randall Simon, who sat out with a sore neck resulting from a postgame traffic accident Thursday, the Pirates did little against Clement. He has given up four earned runs and nine hits in 21 1/3 innings in his last three starts.

    The Cubs added three runs in the ninth against reliever Joe Beimel on Grudzielanek's RBI double, Gonzalez's run-scoring single and Sosa's RBI groundout.

    Kyle Farnsworth followed Clement with a scoreless eighth. Joe Borowski allowed Reggie Sanders' fifth homer in the ninth, the first run against him in 9 2/3 innings.

    Game notes
    Sosa and Choi had homered in three straight games. ... Temperatures were in the 40s with a steady breeze. ... Sanders' homer was only the Pirates' fourth in 12 games and second in 69 innings. ... The Pirates are 2-5 at PNC Park. ... The Cubs have scored all six runs allowed by Benson in 27 1-3 innings over his four starts. ... The Cubs have 51 hits in their last four games. ... Pirates 2B Pokey Reese struck out four times.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press