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Updated: Sunday, September 28, 2003 7:50 PM EDT
MLB RECAP
Pittsburgh Pirates
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 8 0
Chicago Cubs
Team Page | Schedule | Injuries
Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
2 8 0
W Wells (10-9)
L Cruz (2-7)
S Tavarez (11)
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PITTSBURGH 3, CHICAGO CUBS 2
 

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates may have finished their 11th straight losing season, but they also may have developed an ace.

Kip Wells pitched six strong innings as the Pirates finished their year with a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs .

It was a meaningless game for the Cubs, who clinched the National League Central Division on Saturday with a doubleheader sweep. They open their Division Series with the Braves on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Wells (10-9) allowed two runs - both homers - and five hits while walking two and striking out seven. He went 5-2 with a 1.50 ERA in his last seven starts and finished 11th in the NL with a 3.28 ERA.

"I think I've pitched good as a Pirate," said Wells, acquired two years ago from the Chicago White Sox . "And I think I've had a pretty good year on a team that's been as inconsistent as we've been."

Jack Wilson hit the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning for the Pirates, who finished the season at 75-87. They were 72-89 last season - both under manager Lloyd McClendon , who received a contract extension before the All-Star break.

"We had a lot of small victories, obviously, but our record is not where we want it," McClendon said. "We made strides, especially over the last 100 or so games, going 50-48. Our guys are excited about the near future."

So are the Cubs, who are headed to the postseason for the first time since they won the NL wild card in 1998. They edged out the Houston Astros for their first division title since 1989.

With their rotation, the Cubs could be dangerous in the playoffs, especially in the five-game series with the Braves. Kerry Wood pitches the opener for Chicago, followed by Carlos Zambrano and Cy Young Award candidate Mark Prior .

"I feel in a short series, not a lot of teams would want to play us," said Wood, who led the major leagues in strikeouts. "If our pitchers pitch up to their potential, we should be a tough team to beat."

Rookie Sergio Mitre likely will not be on Chicago's playoff roster, but he pitched four scoreless innings in a starting role Sunday, allowing four hits with a walk and three strikeouts opposite Wells.

Alex Gonzalez opened the scoring in the second inning with a solo homer off Wells and Eric Karros made it 2-0 with a solo blast in the fourth.

With Antonio Alfonseca replacing Mitre, the Pirates tied it in the fifth on Kendall's two-out, two run single to left field.

Juan Cruz (2-7) started the seventh and immediately gave up Wilson's ninth homer.

Former Cub Julian Tavarez pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for his 11th save and Pittsburgh's only win in the three-game set, one McClendon hopes helps his team.

"This series was important in a lot of different ways for our growth," he said. "And nothing but positives came out of our team watching the ceremony the Cubs had yesterday."


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