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Cubs overcome blown seven-run lead to spoil Pirates' home opener

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Chuck Tanner couldn't do it. Jim Leyland couldn't do it, either, and both went on to win the World Series.

So it was probably too much to ask John Russell to break a streak that dates to the 1960s in which every new Pittsburgh Pirates manager loses his home opener. Even after a rarely seen comeback from a seven-run deficit.

Aramis Ramirez's sacrifice fly scored the go-ahead run during a two-run 12th inning in which the Cubs didn't have a hit off rookie Evan Meek, and Chicago rallied after squandering the huge lead to win the Pirates' home opener 10-8 on Monday.

Former starter Jon Lieber (1-1) gave a depleted bullpen a big lift with three scoreless innings before Carlos Marmol finished up in the 12th for his first save since June 27, helping the Cubs win their third in a row.

Even after they gave away the huge lead, committed three key infield errors and walked eight batters.

"I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty," manager Lou Piniella said. "Opening Day in Pittsburgh, you have to give them credit for coming back. But we pulled one out -- it wasn't pretty, but it's in the win column."

It wasn't pretty for the Pirates, either, who also had two costly errors, walked 11 and threw three wild pitches.

Pittsburgh rallied a week to the day after blowing a five-run lead in the ninth inning in Atlanta before winning 12-11 in 12 innings, but the Pirates couldn't win this one.

"When you make a comeback like that, you'd like to push one more across," the Pirates' Nate McLouth said.

Russell did something every new Pirates manager since Larry Shepard in 1968 has done by losing his home debut. Nothing new there for a club coming off 15 consecutive losing seasons: The Pirates have dropped their last four home openers and 13 of 15 dating to Three Rivers Stadium.

Russell seemed more disappointed for the 37,491 who crowded into PNC Park, many of them staying throughout a game that lasted nearly five hours and once seemed impossible for the home club to win.

"They hung in there and it would have been great to win for them," Russell said.

Meek (0-1), a winter-meeting draft pick, was the last remaining pitcher in Pittsburgh's bullpen. He got off to a bad start by walking Ryan Theriot and Alfonso Soriano and, after two intentional walks and the Ramirez sacrifice fly, Mark DeRosa walked to force in another run.

"I was just too worried about walking guys and didn't compete and I let down my teammates," said Meek, who must stay with the Pirates all season or be offered back to Tampa Bay. "It's going to work out."

Even if it never seems to for the Pirates in their home opener.

Ramirez and Geovany Soto each drove in two runs and Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny walked three and committed a run-scoring throwing error during a six-run third finished off by Ronny Cedeno's three-run double off Phil Dumatrait.

The Pirates, who didn't score at least seven runs until May 13 last season but have done it three times in seven games this season, turned the Cubs' own errant throwing and starter Ted Lilly's wildness into a five-run fourth that got them back into the game.

Pittsburgh had a chance to win it after Ryan Doumit led off the ninth with a double. But after pinch-runner Brian Bixler advanced to third with one out, he was stranded when Jose Bautista bunted into an out and Luis Rivas grounded out.

Bautista, trying to cross up the Cubs, bunted on his own and Bixler probably would have scored if he had broken on contact. But Bixler, who was on third base for the first time in the majors, hesitated and didn't go.

"I couldn't tell you what happened on the other end," Bautista said. "I thought I put a pretty good bunt down. I don't know what happened."

Pittsburgh did nothing after that against Lieber, who, according to Piniella, would have gone five or six innings if the game had dictated it.

"I needed to hold the team in there," Lieber said. "I was ready to pitch as long as they needed me."

Game notes
Hall of Fame infielder Bill Mazeroski threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... The Pirates are wearing a uniform patch on their home jerseys commemorating the 250th anniversary of Pittsburgh's founding. ... Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche (tender right thumb) didn't start but was used as a pinch-hitter. ... Gorzelanny threw strikes on only 36 of his 70 pitches. ... Soto is a .407 career hitter (11-of-27) against Pittsburgh.