The Pirates look to win their home opener for the first time in four years on Monday afternoon when they begin a three-game series against the NL Central rival Chicago Cubs.
One of Pittsburgh's young starters will get the ball on Monday. Thomas Gorzelanny (0-1, 4.50 ERA) gave up three runs in six innings of work Wednesday in Atlanta, getting charged with a 10-2 loss.
The 25-year-old left-hander has pitched well in four career starts against Chicago (3-3), going 2-2 with a 2.60 ERA while enjoying success against two of the Cubs' best hitters. Alfonso Soriano and former Pirate Aramis Ramirez are a combined 3-for-23 (.130) with nine strikeouts against Gorzelanny.
Chicago left-hander Ted Lilly (0-1, 7.71) will take the mound on Monday hoping to turn things around from his start last Wednesday, when he allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Lilly was 1-0 with a 3.20 ERA in three starts versus Pittsburgh last season.
The mystery of right-hander Bob Howry's slow starts continues.
Manager Lou Piniella announced Sunday he'll use Howry out of the bullpen in the earlier innings and keep him away from his accustomed eighth-inning setup role until Howry regains his "sharpness."
In previous years, Howry has come out of the gate with a lower velocity on his fastball, and it's taken him at leas a few weeks into the season regain it. The Cubs and Howry thought they had the problem beat this winter, when Howry began throwing from a mound several weeks before spring training began.
However, Howry struggled from the outset of spring training, costing himself a chance to open the season as the Cubs' closer. He was a distant third in that battle to eventual winner Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.
Howry repeatedly has said he feels fine. He believes it's just a matter of making better pitches. He'll get a chance to execute earlier in games for now, and the Cubs hope to use him in key spots before too long.
CUBS 3, ASTROS 2: Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 1.32 ERA) turned in his second quality start of the season, going seven innings and giving up seven hits and two runs. He walked none and struck out seven. Kerry Wood earned his second save in two days and third overall. Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee hit solo homers, and the Cubs played their second errorless game of the season. Soriano also notched an outfield assist, nailing Michael Bourn at home.
--1B Derrek Lee is heating up. Lee's homer Sunday against Houston was his third of the season and second in two days. Lee had just one homer last April and three in May as he was recovering from a broken wrist he suffered in 2006. Lee said he was healthy last year, but this year, he looks it. He's also driving the ball to all fields.
--RHP Bob Howry will get time to work on his command and sharpness earlier in games. Howry is the Cubs' top eighth-inning setup man, but he has struggled in the early going and posted a 16.88 ERA in the opening week. Carlos Marmol, one of the Cubs' closer candidates at the start of spring training, may take over directly for Howry, with Jon Lieber, Michael Wuertz and Kevin Hart also picking up more important innings.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano showed no ill effects Sunday from the cramping and dehydration problems that plagued him last Monday in his Opening Day start. He worked seven solid innings of seven-hit, two-run ball Sunday against the Astros, walking no one and striking out seven. Zambrano is making an effort to drink more water and cut down on his caffeine consumption.
--C Geovany Soto was replaced in Sunday's starting lineup by veteran Henry Blanco. Soto entered the day 0-for-7 in throwing out base stealers. The Cubs have been working with Blanco on his mechanics, and he threw out a runner Sunday against Houston. Manager Lou Piniella attributed part of Soto's problem to adjusting to the big leagues after getting into a handful of games last year. The Cubs' pitching staff also has trouble holding runners and delivering the ball quickly.
--RF Kosuke Fukudome reached base safely in the first six Cubs games. He was 0-for-3 Sunday but had a walk. In Saturday's come-from-behind 9-7 victory over Houston, Fukudome hit what proved to be a game-winning, two-run double in the seventh inning. He also laid down a bunt single in the sixth with the Houston infield back. The play helped lead to a run.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Errors the Cubs committed in the first five games. Manager Lou Piniella attributed some of the miscues to the cold weather in Chicago. The Cubs also appear to be having a hard time adjusting to the new, fast grass at Wrigley Field. In addition to the errors, the Cubs have looked sloppy at times in the field.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've never had this many questions about lineups. I think you all fantasize about lineups at night. I really do." -- Manager Lou Piniella expressing his exasperation about having to answer questions daily about his batting order.