CHICAGO (AP) Gary Matthews Jr. surprised everyone but himself
by earning a spot with the Chicago Cubs as an extra outfielder.
"Without a doubt. Everybody except me thought it was an
upset," said Matthews, a non-roster invitee to spring training who
had been designated for assignment in January.
Now that he's made the team, Matthews plans to shake off a slow
start and show he deserves to stick.
On Saturday, he came through with a go-ahead, pinch-hit single to
spark a four-run eighth as the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6
for their fourth straight win.
"The more I get in these situations, the more comfortable I get. Hopefully, (Don Baylor) will keep putting me in them," Matthews said.
"We're making it fun and we're off to a good start, so our confidence is high."
Rondell White tied it at 4 with a leadoff homer in the eighth off Jose Silva (1-1).
Julio Zuleta and Damon Buford -- who had been 1-for-22 -- followed with singles. Matthews, with just two hits in his first 18 at-bats, then smoked a shot past third baseman Aramis Ramirez to put the
"It just kind of took off on him, the ball was probably going a billion miles an hour," Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall said of Matthews' hit.
"We got the ground ball we needed to get out of the inning, but it hit the lip," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It happened. The ball bounced their way all day."
Eric Young then bunted for a single that loaded the bases and reliever Scott Sauerbeck walked Bill Mueller to make it 6-4. Sammy Sosa added a sacrifice fly that turned out to be important.
White's game-tying homer was his second of the season and first at Wrigley Field since being acquired from Montreal last July.
"It felt good to have 30,000 people cheer you. You can't beat that," said White, who was saddled by injuries when he joined Chicago last season.
"It's a sign of a good team when you're down with two innings
to go and you can come back."
Jeff Fassero pitched the ninth for his sixth save in as many chances, allowing an two-out RBI double to Kendall and a run-scoring single to Derek Bell before striking out Emil Brown.
The Pirates had taken a 4-3 lead in the eighth when Ramirez hit his fourth homer, a two-out solo shot on an 0-2 pitch from Manny Aybar (1-1).
Chicago starter Jon Lieber lost a chance for his first win since last Aug. 30 when he walked Enrique Wilson in the seventh and Kendall followed with a game-tying double into the left field corner.
Lieber, the Cubs' top winner last season, failed for the third time to get his first win this year. He was winless in his final six starts of 2000.
Ramon Martinez, in his first NL appearance in nearly three years, gave up a two-run double to Todd Hundley -- who was 1-for-19 coming in -- in the third and a solo homer to Ricky Gutierrez in the fourth
that put the Cubs up 3-2.
Zuleta's second-inning high throw from first to the plate helped
the Pirates to an unearned run in the second. Pat Meares singled
and Abraham Nunez doubled before Martinez hit a bouncer to Zuleta.
John Vander Wal's second homer gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the top of the third.
Martinez, released by the Dodgers in late March and then signed
by the Pirates after a rash of injuries to their starting rotation,
lasted five innings, giving up three runs and seven hits.
|Ricky Gutierrez connects for a homer, his only hit of the game, Saturday against the Pirates.|
The Pirates, at 4-7, haven't had a winning April since
1994. ... Baylor said Zuleta will remain his starting first baseman
with Matt Stairs struggling and Ron Coomer on the DL. Zuleta was
1-for-4 Saturday. ... Martinez made his first NL appearance since
June 14, 1998, against Colorado while he was with the Dodgers. ...
Nunez had a career-best three hits, including a pair of doubles.
... Hundley's RBIs were his first two with the Cubs.
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NY Yankees 3
Kansas City 4
Tampa Bay 5
Chi. White Sox 4
NY Mets 0
St. Louis 4
Chicago Cubs 7
San Francisco 6
San Diego 5
Los Angeles 4