<
>

Ramirez homers twice, Walker plates three

CHICAGO (AP) -- Signing Todd Walker already is paying off for the
Chicago Cubs.

Filling in while Mark Grudzielanek is on the disabled list with
a partially torn Achilles' tendon, Walker went 3-for-5 with three
RBI on Wednesday to lead the Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-3.

"He had some big hits," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He
started us off early."

The rest of the Cubs quickly fell in line. Aramis Ramirez
homered twice, and Matt Clement scattered two hits for the Cubs,
who got their first win at Wrigley Field this year.

Raul Mondesi spoiled Chicago's shutout bid with a three-run
homer in the seventh off Kyle Farnsworth.

Walker has been an everyday player his entire career, but he
passed on some starting jobs to sign with the Cubs in the offseason
because he wanted a chance to win. He knew he'd play -- Baker has
always made liberal use of his bench -- he just didn't know how
much.

"You certainly don't wish injuries on anybody," Walker said.
"But you figure when you come over in the National League, you're
going to get your at-bats. I didn't have any fears of rotting on
the bench."

Less than two weeks into the season, Walker found himself in the
starting lineup. And he took advantage right away, leading off the
first inning with a first-pitch double off Ryan Vogelsong (1-1).

Two batters later, Sammy Sosa drove Walker home and the Cubs
were rolling. After not allowing an earned run in their previous 13
innings, the Pirates pitchers gave up eight in the first four
innings.

The Cubs chased Vogelsong in the third when they batted around
and scored four runs -- including back-to-back homers onto Waveland
Avenue by Moises Alou and Ramirez. Vogelsong looked as if he might
get out of the inning when he struck out Alex Gonzalez for the
second out and intentionally walked Michael Barrett to get to
Clement. But the move backfired when Clement singled to short to
load the bases.

Walker then came through again, hitting a two-run single to give
Chicago a 7-0 lead.

"I thought I had pretty good stuff," said Vogelsong, who
allowed 10 hits and seven runs in three innings, striking out five
and walking two. "They hit everything I threw up there. It didn't
matter if it was a good pitch or a bad pitch.

Ramirez, traded to the Cubs from the Pirates last July, made it
8-0 with his second homer, a shot to left on a 2-2 pitch in the
fourth. It's the eighth multihomer game of Ramirez's career.

His most recent multihomer game? Last Sept. 21 against the
Pirates.

"That's fine with me. He can get two more tomorrow if he
wants," Baker said when asked about Ramirez's success against his
old team.

The run support made Clement's job a little easier. Clement
(1-1) has been struggling with his location, not going longer than
five innings in his first start or his six Cactus League outings.
And he still doesn't have everything figured out, issuing three
walks and hitting one batter in six innings. But he appears to be
getting closer to the pitcher who won 14 games last year.

After giving up singles to Tike Redman and Jason Kendall in the
first inning, Clement didn't allow another hit. He also struck out
seven.

He got in trouble in the third inning when he walked Kendall and
Rob Mackowiak to load the bases with two outs. But he struck out
Craig Wilson to end the threat.

"I flat-out swung at bad pitches," Wilson said. "If I take
those, it's a different game. One nonswing of the bat would have
got us back in the game."

Instead, Clement retired eight of his last nine batters before
leaving the game.

"We shot ourselves in the foot time and again," Pirates
manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We had (Clement) on the ropes. We
just didn't get the hits. Then we let him off the ropes and he'd
make a quality pitch. We all know he can be pretty tough. When he
had to be tough today, he was."

Game notes
This was the second time already this season the Cubs had
back-to-back home runs. Alex Gonzalez and Alou had consecutive home
runs in the ninth inning at Atlanta on Sunday. ... Actors Matt
Damon and Andy Garcia were at the game, watching from the new seats
next to the Cubs' dugout. ... The Cubs optioned LHP Andy Pratt to
Triple-A Iowa before the game and recalled RHP Francis Beltran.
Pratt, acquired from the Braves on March 25, had a 21.60 ERA in
four games for the Cubs.