Cubs Show They Can't Lose Them All

From Associated Press

America's lovable losers finally won.

Not that it was easy.

The Chicago Cubs finally stopped their season-opening losing streak at 14 on Sunday, defeating the Mets, 4-3, in the second game of a doubleheader at New York.

"Here it is, April 20, and we just got on the board. Unbelievable," Mark Grace said after the Cubs held on through a ninth-inning scare, winning for only the third time in 31 games dating to last September.

The Mets, who won the opener, 8-2, behind two homers by Carl Everett, played like the Cubs in the second game, losing a 1-0 lead with a hit batter, a botched foul pop-up, a double off an outfielder's glove and a game-tying wild pitch.

Chicago led, 4-1, in the ninth, but closer Mel Rojas left with right hamstring tightness and Turk Wendell allowed two runners on with one out. He battled Todd Hundley, who fouled off six 3-2 pitches before striking out. Lance Johnson then hit a two-run double.

"I don't want to go up there and have three up, three down," Wendell joked. "That would have been boring."

Manny Alexander, four for seven on the afternoon, came to the plate, but grounded out to shortstop.

"I apologized to most of the guys after the game for almost having a heart attack, pushing the panic button," Wendell said.

Chicago's 0-14 start set a National League record and was the second-worst behind the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, who began 0-21. The Cubs also broke the franchise record of 13 consecutive losses, set in 1944 and tied in 1982 and 1985.

"One and what? 14? That's atrocious," Grace said. "It's a brutal start. I don't think this record will ever be broken."

Montreal 5-3, Phillies 1-0--Pedro Martinez, making his second start of the season, pitched a strong game as the Expos defeated the Phillies in the second game to complete a doubleheader sweep at Philadelphia.

Mark Grudzielanek had a two-run double and Montreal pitchers combined on a three-hitter as the Expos ended a three-game slide with a victory in the opener.

Martinez, suspended for the last game of 1996 and the first seven games of this season for his part in a bench-clearing brawl in Philadelphia in September, gave up no runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, struck out eight and walked two.

Martinez retired the first batter in the eighth, but Rob Butler and Mickey Morandini singled, and Ugueth Urbina relieved Martinez.

Rico Brogna then hit a liner to center field on which Rondell White made a diving catch and doubled off Butler at second base.

In the opener, Jeff Juden (2-0) gave up only one run despite five walks in five innings of two-hit pitching, and Montreal scored three runs in the second.

Pittsburgh 5, Cincinnati 3--Jon Lieber gave up one earned run for the fourth consecutive start, and Kevin Young had three runs batted in as the Pirates extended the Reds' road woes at Pittsburgh.

The Reds, victimized again by their pitchers' wildness, have lost six of seven overall and 10 of their last 11 on the road. They lost three of four to the Pirates.

Young had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a two-run single that made it 5-2 in the fifth, giving him five RBIs in two games. He had a two-run homer as the Pirates won, 6-5, on Saturday.

The Pirates benefited from four walks--all by starter Kent Mercker (1-2)--and a hit batsman, beginning in the first when Emil Brown walked, Jermaine Allensworth doubled and Dale Sveum hit a run-scoring grounder.

Colorado 9, Atlanta 2--Darren Holmes, a reliever making his first career start, held the hot-hitting Braves in check, and Larry Walker and Quinton McCracken had four hits apiece as the Rockies won at Denver.

Colorado finished the game with a season-high 20 hits--14 off John Smoltz (2-3), who gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Backup first baseman John Vander Wal added three RBI for the Rockies, who ended Atlanta's winning streak at seven.

Holmes (1-0) was never in serious trouble, pitching out of the stretch that he used for 319 consecutive relief appearances.

San Francisco 2, Florida 0--Osvaldo Fernandez pitched well and Jeff Kent and Rick Wilkins had sacrifice flies as the Giants ran their winning streak to nine games with the victory at San Francisco.

The Giants completed their third consecutive series sweep. They are 13-3 and off to their best start since 1938, when the team was in New York.

Fernandez (2-1), making his fourth start of the season, scattered five hits over seven innings. Rod Beck pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 10 appearances.

Kent's sacrifice fly scored Stan Javier, who doubled to lead off the first. J.T. Snow doubled to lead off the second, then scored on Wilkins' sacrifice fly.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BESTS OF THE DAY

BATTING

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Player Team Performance Team's Result John Olerud New York 3 for 5, 3 RBI, 2 runs, HR Win Q. McCracken Colorado 4 for 5, 3 runs Win Carl Everett New York 3 for 4, 2 runs, 5 RBI, 2 HR Win

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PITCHING

*--*

Player Team Performance Team's Result O. Fernandez San Francisco 7 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs Win Jon Lieber Pittsburgh 7 innings, 1 earned run, Win 1.35 ERA in 4 starts Pedro Martinez Montreal 7 1/3 innings, 5 hits, Win 0 runs, 8 strikeouts

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