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Cirillo, Brewers spoil Tracy's debut at Pirates skipper

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- At 36, Jeff Cirillo has transformed himself into the wise veteran who tries to stay young by occasionally hiking up his socks or blowing chewing-gum bubbles at home plate.

He's also become the guy the Milwaukee Brewers turn to when they need a big hit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day.

Cirillo delivered a pinch-hit two-run single in the seventh inning and Milwaukee won 5-2 on Monday, spoiling Jim Tracy's debut as Pittsburgh's manager.

"Even with Opening Day being what it was, I was very calm, very relaxed," said Cirillo, who homered and doubled in last season's Opening Day victory at Pittsburgh.

Cirillo's tiebreaking single Monday came off Damaso Marte, the
winning pitcher in Game 3 of last year's World Series for the Chicago White Sox.

Brewers manager Ned Yost summoned Cirillo from the bench with runners on second and third and one out.

"I put him up there with the intent of him winning the game," Yost said. "You know, he's had such a great spring for us, he's such a veteran-type player who really is comfortable in those situations."

Cirillo, the Brewers' all-time leader in batting average, returned to the team last year -- not as a star, as he was in the late 1990s, but as a bench player.

He admits the role is difficult to adjust to, but he isn't rooting against the young players who have taken his place.

"Shoot, I've never been to the playoffs, and I'm running out of time," Cirillo said.

Coming off their first non-losing season since 1992, the Brewers are suddenly expected to contend this season. Yost has been trying to play down expectations, but he'll take the victory.

"You know what, it's one game out of 162, but believe me, it's much better to win," Yost said. "It gets you off on the right start, your fans go home excited."

Carlos Lee provided some extra excitement with a two-run homer in the eighth inning.

Brewers reliever Justin Lehr got just his third major-league win, pitching one hitless inning. Brewers closer Derrick Turnbow
finished with a one-hit ninth for the save, one day after agreeing to a $6.5 million, three-year contract.

Turnbow didn't have a great spring training for the Brewers, but Yost said that doesn't matter for relievers.

"They need that adrenaline, they need that packed house to really get going," Yost said.

Pittsburgh, which outhit the Brewers 7-6, squandered an impressive outing by starter Oliver Perez, who allowed one run and three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Perez struck out nine and even helped his team at the plate with an RBI single in the second.

Perez's strong outing was in stark contrast to last season's Opening Day appearance against the Brewers in Pittsburgh, when Milwaukee roughed him up for six runs in five-plus innings.

Tracy said he took Perez out of the game because he had thrown 95 pitches and did not want his left-hander to have a chance to be saddled with a loss.

"He got stronger as the game went on," Tracy said. "He was throwing quality pitches as he got further into the game."

Perez also contributed at the plate with an RBI single in the second inning that tied the score at 1. Milwaukee's second batter of the game, J.J. Hardy, had homered for a 1-0 lead.

Brewers starter Doug Davis gave up two runs in six innings and nearly pitched out of a jam in the top of the sixth.

With the bases loaded, Humberto Cota hit a groundball up the middle, where it was fielded on the run by second baseman Rickie Weeks. He flipped the ball behind his back with his bare hand to Hardy covering at second, but Castillo was called safe and Sean Casey scored for a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead.

Game notes
With temperatures in the 40s, Miller Park's retractable roof was closed. ... It was the Brewers' first season opener at home since 1995. ... Monday's attendance was 45,023, the third-largest crowd ever in Miller Park and the largest on Opening Day.