PITTSBURGH—If the start of the season is any indication, Cubs fans better get ready for one of the bumpiest rides this side of Lake Shore Drive.
After blowing a seven-run lead Monday in a 12-inning victory at PNC Park, the Cubs blew leads in the ninth and 14th innings Wednesday night before Felix Pie's two-run single in the 15th paved the way to a 6-4 triumph.
Ryan Dempster, who was long gone by the game's conclusion.
The game lasted 4 hours 20 minutes, after Monday's 4-hour-47-minute marathon.
But with two victories under their belts, the Cubs aren't complaining.
Dempster allowed only one hit through seven shutout innings, but was just an interested bystander at the end of the night. Kerry Wood served up a leadoff home run to Jason Bay in the ninth to blow Dempster's victory and send the game into extra innings.
Aramis Ramirez was the hero for about five minutes after his two-run homer off Phil Dumatrait in the 14th inning.
"We scored two, and I said 'That's enough,' " manager Lou Piniella said.
But, of course, that was not enough.
Kevin Hart managed to cough it up in the bottom of the inning when he gave up a two-run homer to Adam LaRoche, who snapped an 0-for-25 slump. But Geovany Soto took a one-walk in the 15th and, after Hart bunted into a fielder's choice and Ryan Theriot singled, Dumatrait's wild pitch advanced both runners.
Pie, a defensive replacement for Reed Johnson, came through after an intentional walk to Alfonso Soriano when he dumped an opposite-field single into left to bring home Hart and Theriot.
"That's what he has to do," Piniella said. "We've told him about it many times."
Sean Marshall, just called up from Triple-A Iowa, gave up a one-out double to Chris Gomez in the bottom of the inning, but managed to get the final two outs for his first career save.
"Watch out, Woody," Marshall joked afterward, pretending he was taking Wood's closer's job.
With most of Pittsburgh focused on the Penguins' first NHL playoff game on the other side of town, a sleepy crowd of 9,735 watched Dempster mow down Pirates hitters for seven innings until he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth after throwing 98 pitches.
The Pirates scored one off Carlos Marmol in the eighth, but the Cubs seemed firmly in control when Wood entered in the ninth with a 2-1 lead. Then Bay grabbed hold of a shoulder-high, 2-1 fastball and launched it into the right-center field bleachers, sending the game into extra innings.
Dempster, who has been in Wood's shoes many times, empathized with his teammate.
"You know the exact feeling he's going through," Dempster said. "I think it's hard for people to remember that, especially in that situation in the ninth inning, that we're not machines. We're human beings, and things like that are going to happen … it didn't hurt. We won the game, and that's all that matters."
Bob Howry and Michael Wuertz combined for three scoreless innings to get it to the 13th, and Hart had one scoreless inning before Ramirez gave him a chance for a victory. LaRoche's homer temporarily ruined that, but he still managed to get the victory, with the assistance of Marshall, the seventh Cubs pitcher.
"This game comes at you in different ways," Marshall said. "That's for sure."