Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

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CHICAGO (AP) – Greg Maddux pitched neatly into the seventh inning, Derrek Lee hit his second homer of the season and the Chicago Cubs won their home opener, 5-1 over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.

A week shy of his 40th birthday, Maddux earned his 319th career victory. He sent the Cardinals to their first loss of the season after a three-game sweep at Philadelphia.

Lee put the Cubs ahead with a solo home run in the first inning. Neifi Perez added three hits for the Cubs and Ronny Cedeno tripled and doubled.

Maddux (1-0) gave up four hits, struck out one and walked two. He left with a 5-1 lead after allowing a home run to Jim Edmonds with one out in the seventh and walking the next batter, Scott Rolen.

Bob Howry relieved and retired So Taguchi and Gary Bennett to end the threat.

After going 13-15 last season and finishing below .500 for the first time since 1987, Maddux was sharp from the start, hitting the corners. The cool, blustery conditions at Wrigley Field didn’t seem to bother him, although the swirling winds wreaked havoc on several fly balls.

One shot by Edmonds in the fourth was knocked down by the wind. Left fielder Matt Murton caught it and threw a one-hopper to first to double off Juan Encarnacion to end the inning.

With Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the disabled list, the Cubs need their other starters to come through. But the pitchers were erratic in a two-game split with Cincinnati.

The Cubs walked 16 batters in the first two games, including five by Carlos Zambrano in the season-opener.

Maddux was in control, and the Chicago hitters roughed up Jeff Suppan (0-1).

A 16-game winner last season, Suppan gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings. He struggled from the outset, after going 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA against the Cubs last season.

With two out in the first, Lee homered. The Cubs added a run in the second on Cedeno’s two-out triple to the right-field corner, and scored two more in the third.

With runners on first and second and one out, shortstop David Eckstein made a diving stop on Aramis Ramirez’s grounder but threw wildly to second, allowing a run to score. Michael Barrett’s single to center made it 4-0 before Murton grounded into a double play.

Cedeno led off the fourth with a wind-aided double down the right-field line and scored on a single by Juan Pierre.

Notes: With or without a contract extension, Lee expects negotiations to end within the next few days. “I don’t think it’s going to go on much longer than today or (Saturday), honestly,” he said. “I don’t want to continue to go back and forth. I think we’ll know something today or tomorrow.” Acquired in a trade with Florida in November 2003, Lee had by far his best season last year when he led the NL with a .335 average, finished second with 46 home runs and drove in 107 runs. “We’ve been talking. I think we’re getting close so hopefully it works out,” said Lee, in the final year of his contract. … The Cubs presented a framed photograph of the late DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day 1984 and honored him with a moment of silence before the game. Meyer’s son, Joey, who succeeded his father at DePaul, then threw out the first pitch, and the Meyer family led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. Ray Meyer died at age 92 on March 17. … After two more games against the Cubs, the Cardinals will play their first game in their new ballpark when they host Milwaukee on Monday. “The fans are going to like it because there’s enough there when you look at it, it reminds you of the old park and lots that’s new,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s really a nice mix.”

AP-ES-04-07-06 1651EDT

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