CHICAGO – Blake DeWitt came to Chicago Cubs spring training expecting to play a lot at second base. During those six weeks in Arizona, he pretty much played himself out of a job.
After hitting just .186 during the spring, he's got new duties now: part-time player, utility man and pinch-hitter.
On Saturday, he delivered as that pinch-hitter, blasting a two-run, two-out, bases-loaded double to cap a five-run eighth inning and send the Cubs past the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3.
"Whatever is asked of me. Just keep playing and working," DeWitt said. "It's new to me. I've had several pinch-hit opportunities in my career. I'm not going to say a lot. I've done it before, so I have a decent idea of how to get ready."
Chicago's comeback against relievers Evan Meek and Chris Resop was aided by a costly error on Pirates first baseman Lyle Overbay that made three of Chicago's runs in the eighth unearned.
"We finally put an inning together. Good for Blake DeWitt, it's a huge hit for him and for us," said Cubs manager Mike Quade, who got his first win as a full-time skipper.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano left the game in the seventh with cramping in his right hand, one batter after he'd given up a leadoff homer to Garrett Jones that gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
"Just a cramp, but I'll be OK. Drink a lot of fluids and do what I have to do," said Zambrano, who's had cramping issues previously in his career.
Zambrano said he began to cramp in his hamstring as he ran to the mound to start the seventh. After giving up the homer, Zambrano had a 2-2 count on Ronny Cedeno but couldn't continue.
Sean Marshall (1-0) got the victory with a scoreless eighth and Carlos Marmol pitched the ninth for his first save.
Pirates starter Paul Maholm pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings, giving up five hits, before the Cubs got to the Pirates' bullpen.
"We had the game and let it get away from us. But you know what? I'll hand the ball to Meek every time, and all those guys in the bullpen. Everybody is going to have bad outings," Maholm said.
Chicago finally broke through as Meek (0-1) walked pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome and threw a wild pitch before Starlin Castro hit an RBI double to make it 3-1. Overbay then misplayed Marlon Byrd's grounder for an error as Castro scored to make it 3-2.
Geovany Soto had a one-out single and Alfonso Soriano singled to right-center on a 1-2 pitch to tie it at 3.
Resop relieved and walked Tyler Colvin to load the bases. Dewitt then doubled to left as Wrigley Field erupted.
"With the bases loaded, you know he's got to come at you with strikes," DeWitt said. "I put a good swing on it and came through."
After losing the opener to the Pirates 6-3 when they let a 2-0 lead slip away, the Cubs were comforted by a comeback of their own.
"You fall behind 3-0 and with the loss yesterday you get behind late in the game like that you can roll over and quit or keep battling," DeWitt said. "It definitely helps create an identity to this ball club, that we're going to give it all for nine (innings). And that's what happened."
Meek, trying to set it up for hard-throwing closer Joel Hanrahan, took the blame.
"When you go out there and walk the leadoff guy, it's never a good sign. I just didn't make good pitches when I needed to. Didn't make very smart pitches, not smart locations," Meek said.
"I go out there every day expecting to get three outs and get them quickly. ... It's a very confident feeling, so going out there and not doing my job and not making the pitches, walking the leadoff guy, that weighs on you hard. Your team got three runs on the board, your starter did a great job and you're expected to get three outs. It just wasn't a good day for me."
Zambrano was put on a suspended list last June, the day after he went on a rampage in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field. He eventually underwent anger management counseling, and when he rejoined the team, he found his groove and went 8-0 over his final 11 starts.
Zambrano, who threw 99 pitches on a cool 46-degree day, gave up five hits and three runs in his six innings plus.
Zambrano walked two in the top of the first before Pedro Alvarez pulled a two-out RBI single to right to give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.
Neil Walker, who'd hit a grand slam in Pittsburgh's 6-3 season-opening victory Friday, had an RBI double in the third after Jose Tabata reached on an infield single. After Andrew McCutchen walked to put runners at first and second with no outs, Zambrano averted a big inning. He struck out Overbay and then raced to cover first and complete a double play that was started by first baseman Carlos Pena on Alvarez's broken-bat grounder.
Maholm retired the first eight batters before Zambrano drove a double.
NOTES: It was five degrees warmer than Friday, and was accompanied by a 12-mph wind blowing left to right. The crowd was much smaller, announced at 35,782 compared to 41,358 a day earlier ... Matt Garza, who will make his Cubs debut Sunday, spent most of Saturday leading cheers on the dugout steps while wearing sunglasses and a sweat shirt. ... Jones had a quick start last season when he hit two homers in the opener against the Dodgers. He had four homers against the Cubs last season when Pittsburgh won 10 of 15 games.