For six innings Wednesday night, Wandy Rodriguez slid his way through the Chicago Cubs lineup with ease.

Even when the Cubs gummed up the works in the seventh, Rodriguez wriggled free -- with some help from his bullpen. He helped the Pirates to their first win of the season, a 3-0 victory against the Cubs at PNC Park.

Rodriguez, who started preparing for the season a month early so he could pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, appeared to be in top form. He pitched 62/3 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out six.

"The fastball had a lot of late life," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He stayed aggressive. The breaking ball was a good pitch for him."


He made excellent use of his curveball, both for looking strikes and in the dirt to elicit poor swings from right-handed batters. He also located his fastball high and outside to force batters to chase with two strikes.

Rodriguez had a 0.96 ERA in 91/3 innings for the Dominican Republic team that won the WBC.

Rodriguez pitched his way into trouble in the seventh, hitting Anthony Rizzo to lead off the inning. Alfonso Soriano singled. Rodriguez struck out Scott Hairston looking, but he hit Welington Castillo to load the bases. He got Brent Lillibrigde to watch his curveball for strike three before Hurdle replaced him with the left-handed Tony Watson to face the right-handed Alberto Gonzalez.

"He's a pro," Hurdle said. "That's a pro pitch. No kid's going to throw that pitch. He had the conviction. We talked about it in spring training. Intent, conviction, he executed."

Rodriguez said he lost his fastball command in the seventh, and when catcher Russell Martin asked him what he wanted to throw, he opted for the breaking ball.

"There was a lot of drama, as it played out, in the seventh inning," Hurdle said.