BY WILL GRAVES
Wandy Rodriguez allowed just two hits over 62⁄3 innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates edged the Chicago Cubs 3-0 on Wednesday night for their first win of the year.
Andrew McCutchen smacked an RBI double for the Pirates. Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez also drove in a run, more than enough for Rodriguez on a frigid night.
Jason Grilli, promoted to the closer’s role in the offseason, worked the ninth for his first save.
Rodriguez, acquired in a trade deadline deal with Houston last July, struck out six and walked one in a continuation of his strong spring.
Edwin Jackson gave up two runs in five innings but lost to the Pirates for the first time in seven career starts. The Cubs produced just two singles and only put a runner on third once.
The 34-year-old Rodriguez helped the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic championship last month, going 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA in two starts. He carried the momentum forward in his first April start for someone other than the Astros.
Expertly mixing his breaking ball with a pinpoint fastball, Rodriguez kept the Cubs off balance all night.
And unlike the opener – when the Pirates couldn’t take advantage of a steady performance by A.J. Burnett – the Pirates gave Rodriguez some help.
Pittsburgh took its first lead of the season when Garrett Jones led off the fourth with a single and McCutchen followed with a double to the corner in left. McCutchen came home when Gaby Sanchez’s sharp grounder rolled under the glove of shortstop Starlin Castro.
Rodriguez had little trouble until the seventh, when his command temporarily abandoned him. He drilled Anthony Rizzo in the shoulder, gave up a single to Alfonso Soriano and pelted Welington Castillo in the knee to load the bases with one out.
It led to a 10-pitch duel with Brent Lillibridge, one Rodriguez barely survived. Twice Lillibridge drilled a Rodriguez fastball down the left-field line. One landed inches to the left of the chalk. The other sailed just wide of the foul pole. Rodriguez took advantage of the reprieve, striking Lilli-bridge out with a 76 mph curveball.
Watson entered and promptly fell behind pinch hitter Alberto Gonzalez 3-0 before battling back with two called strikes then getting out of the jam with a routine fly to center.
Marte gave the Pirates some wiggle room with a single that plated Clint Barmes in the second. Watson and Grilli took care of the rest.
The 36-year-old Grilli, closing for the first time in his journeyman career, retired the Cubs in order in the ninth. He struck out Nate Schierholtz looking to end it and celebrated with a fist pump as fireworks exploded behind him.
Notes: The gametime temperature was 35 degrees. ... Pittsburgh LHP Jeff Locke pitched six innings in an extended spring training game on Tuesday. Locke is Pittsburgh’s fifth starter and will make his season debut on Sunday in Los Angeles.
... Chicago manager Dale Sveum reiterated Carlos Marmol remains the team’s closer. Marmol struggled during Monday’s 3-1 victory and was pulled after giving up a run and two hits while retiring just one batter. ... The series wraps up on Thursday. James McDonald (12-8, 4.21 ERA in 2012) starts for Pittsburgh against Chicago’s Travis Wood (6-13, 4.27). ... McCutchen swiped second in the sixth for his 100th career stolen base.