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CHC@PIT: Samardzija shuts down Pirates over seven

With the pageantry of the Cubs' home opener at Wrigley Field in the rearview mirror, the attention turns to a battle of aces.

Saturday's duel is between Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and righty Jeff Samardzija. Lee will look to bounce back from an Opening Day start in which he was shelled for eight runs on 11 hits in five innings of the Phillies' wild 14-10 win over Texas. He said he likes the potential of Philadelphia's rotation, which will eventually feature three-time All-Star Cole Hamels, who is unlikely to return until the end of April, and includes dependable veteran Kyle Kendrick.

"I mean, it's three established guys that have been doing it for a while and have had success," Lee said. "That makes your rotation that much deeper, which gives the team a better chance to win over time."

The Cubs are in full rebuild mode, featuring a roster stocked with young prospects like Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro trying to prove they belong, with veterans sprinkled in.

Samardzija qualifies as one of those veterans, and he will look to build off an impressive season debut in which he blanked the Pirates for seven innings.

Starting pitching has not been a problem for the Cubs. The staff has a 2.55 ERA through four games (12 ER in 42 1/3 IP) while the team has hit just .201 and .121 with runners in scoring position, though the latter stat is skewed by an 0-for-11 and 1-for-16 performance in back-to-back losses to the Pirates. Chicago has yet to score more than three runs in a game.

"No, these guys have to keep playing," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria of whether he was concerned about the lack of offense. "I think it's really, really early to start talking about lineup changes and things of that nature, quite frankly.

"These guys -- we've had three really difficult battles in Pittsburgh. We traveled last night, just like everybody does, and we came in this morning with a lot of energy, hoping for the right outcome. It just didn't happen."

Bowa has advice on Wrigley conditions
Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa knows all too well what the conditions can be like on the North Side in April.

Friday's official game-time temperature was 38 degrees with a 28-degree wind chill and wind blowing across from left to right field at 23 mph.

"You know, you try to explain it to them that the conditions change every pitch -- not every inning, every pitch," said Bowa, who played 3 1/2 seasons with the Cubs and made many a return trip as a manager of the Phillies. "And you've got to be aware of the wind, which way it's blowing, the grass is a little bit thicker, just a lot of things that go in to playing here. That's what makes this field so unique. It plays different almost every inning."

Saturday's forecast calls for a high of 44 degrees and sunshine, with temperatures possibly climbing into the 50s on Sunday.

Cubs: Renteria not worried about slow starts by Castro, Rizzo
Through four games, Rizzo and Castro have combined to go 4-for-34 (.118) with one run scored, three RBIs and one extra-base hit.

Renteria seems confident the two will turn things around, especially given the small sample size.

"No, I think it's the fourth game of the season, and quite frankly, I wouldn't panic anyway," Renteria said. "We're going to continue to work, we're going to continue to try to get better, we're going to try to continue to improve on the things we need to."

For his part, Castro said he's not pressing.

"I feel good and I'll be all right," he said. "I try to be aggressive on every pitch. I don't feel bad or anything like that."

Worth noting
• The Cubs have lost their last four home openers. They last secured a home opener victory on April 12, 2010, a 9-5 win over the Brewers.

• Dating back to May 1, 2013, Ben Revere's .344 batting average is second to only two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera's .346. Revere went 3-for-5 with a run and stolen base on Friday.

• Cubs leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, who started the season 11-for-16 (.688) through three games -- including a five-hit game at Pittsburgh on Wednesday -- was hitless in three at-bats Friday. Comments