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PIT@CHC: Sveum on Samardzija's outing, tough loss

CHICAGO -- On Opening Day, Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs beat A.J. Burnett and the Pirates at PNC Park. In Saturday's rematch, Burnett got revenge.

Pedro Alvarez hit an RBI single and a monster two-run home run, and made a key defensive play, and Russell Martin belted a two-run blast to back Burnett and lead the Pirates to a 6-2 victory.

Burnett gave up four hits, including a two-run homer by Alfonso Soriano with one out in the ninth. The Pirates right-hander was vying for his first complete game since last July 31, when he went the distance at Wrigley Field, but he was lifted after Soriano's home run. Burnett obviously wasn't happy.

"One reason I was so ticked off when I came off the mound is you program yourself and want to finish what you start," Burnett said. "[The pitch to Soriano was the] only ball I hung, and he did with it what you're supposed to. You need to bury that pitch, and I didn't."

It also was the only blemish on his day, as Burnett improved to 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA in six career starts at Wrigley.

"It's a good place, a good environment," he said. "It's fun to go out and play against these guys on their home turf."

The Cubs didn't hit many balls hard off Burnett, but when they did, the Pirates were there to catch them. Chicago had runners at second and third with two out in the sixth, when Soriano hit a ball down the third-base line that Alvarez snared, then he got to his feet in time to throw to first.

They couldn't stop Soriano's home run, No. 379 of his career, which ties him for 64th on the all-time list with Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez.

"They played perfectly," Soriano said of the Pirates. "They were always in the perfect spot."

Samardzija threw eight shutout innings on Opening Day in the Cubs' 3-1 win, striking out nine and allowing only two hits. But the Pirates peppered him for eight hits over six innings Saturday. The right-hander struck out seven, but was lifted after throwing 112 pitches.

"He had zero fastball command today," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He got very few called strikes on his fastball. He couldn't keep it down and away. Even when he came in, he'd leak it over the plate, but he got beat on two hanging splits."

"The splitter was up all day today," Samardzija said, agreeing with Sveum. "You need that to be down in the zone. They took advantage of it up in the zone and made me pay."

This was Samardzija's third start against the Pirates this season, and his only win came on April 1.

"Today, they were patient with me and got some pitches to hit," the right-hander said. "When I had success against them before, I felt I had them on their heels, whereas today, they had me on my heels. With a good team like that that's playing good baseball, you have to make good pitches early in the count, early in the game, which allows you to pitch deeper in the game and not show them everything you have early."

Alvarez hit an RBI single in the Pirates' second, and Travis Snider added a seeing-eye RBI single to center in the third.

Martin walked to open the fourth, and Alvarez followed with his 13th home run, launching a 2-2 slider over the right-field seats and onto Sheffield Avenue for a 4-0 lead. Martin gave Burnett some insurance with his two-run shot in the eighth off Hector Rondon for the 100th home run of his career.

In the fifth, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio went out to check on Samardzija after he fell behind 2-0 to Snider. Starling Marte was on first after a single.

"[Bosio] wanted me to work down in the zone," Samardzija said. "He felt I was missing, and pulling off the ball a lot. I started throwing a lot of four-seamers there and it was an adjustment that ended up working out."

Samardzija got Snider to fly out and escaped without giving up any more runs. The Cubs pitcher is smart enough to know what he needs to do. Now, he has to make the adjustments in-game.

"I felt I was behind in the count a lot," Samardzija said. "When you're behind in the count, it changes their approach, and then you get runners on base, and it changes their approach and it takes it away from that attacking mode that I'm used to being in.

"They got me out of my rhythm it seemed like from the second inning on. It's up to me to get back in that rhythm and find what makes me tick."

With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 6-18 against National League Central opponents, and their six wins are the fewest for any team within its own division.

"When we're not playing good, we make mistakes with the pitching, we don't get a hit, we don't play good defense," Soriano said. "That's contagious. All negative, it's contagious. When the team is playing good, it's contagious, too. We have to learn to play good.

"I see the defense and the hitting by those guys -- it makes me work hard and try to get better. It's hard to see those guys play the way they played and we don't play like that."

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