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Cubs survive scary ninth inning

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(AP)
Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was dominant during Chicago's 3-1 win over the Pirates on Monday in Pittsburgh. Samardzija pitched eight scoreless inning, allowing only two hits while striking out nine.

PITTSBURGH – Chicago Cubs players ventured out of the clubhouse Monday morning to watch a gentle snowfall at PNC Park.

After spending nearly 2 months in the warmth of Arizona, the weather provided the team with a cold reality check as they prepared for the 2013 season opener. 

But the snow ended a couple hours before game time, and the Cubs were ready to go.

Jeff Samardzija was on top of his game, throwing eight shutout innings to lead the Cubs to a 3-1 win before 39,078 fans.

"It's one of them special days that comes around once a year," manager Dale Sveum said beforehand. "He's got the mound, and we'll see what happens."

What happened was Samardzija dominated through eight innings, allowing two hits with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Then came the scary ninth, where Carlos Marmol pulled a disappearing act.

Marmol started out by hitting Andrew McCutchen with one out. After McCutchen stole second, Pedro Alvarez singled to center to snap the shutout, and he walked Gaby Sanchez before being yanked for left-hander James Russell.

After Russell induced a flyout from Neil Walker, Sveum called on new set-up man Kyuji Fujikawa to face Russell Martin.

Fujikawa got the job done, getting Martin to pop out to center to end it. Afterwards, Sveum said Marmol was still his closer, but obviously he will be on a much shorter leash.

Anthony Rizzo got the Cubs off to a quick lead with a two-run, 438-foot home run to center on the first pitch he saw from Burnett. Rizzo didn't homer in the Cactus League schedule. The Cubs added a run in the sixth on Welington's Castillo's RBI double, his second-opposite field two-bagger.

Samardzija escaped a first-inning jam by striking out Clint Barmes and Burnett with runners on the corners, and retired 14 straight batters from the second into the sixth. 

Burnett settled down after the shaky start, striking out eight during an 11-batter stretch from the second into the fourth innings. He wound up with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits.

The Cubs wound up striking out 15 times on the afternoon.

Before the game, the Cubs placed Darwin Barney on the 15-day disabled list with a gash in his left knee that required five stitches. 

"Anywhere else on the body and he would've been playing," Sveum said. "But it's right in the middle of the kneecap, where that thing bends all the time. Any time you'd bend it right now and you'd just rupture those stitches. It's unfortunate."

Star of the game: Jeff Samardzija, Cubs, 8 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 9 strikeouts, 1 walk

Up next: Cubs (Edwin Jackson 0-0) at Pirates (Wandy Rodriguez), 6:05 p.m. Wednesday

TV/Radio: CSN/720 AM, 94.3 FM

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