LAS VEGAS (AP) - The hard work is paying off for Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija scattered three hits over five scoreless innings for the Chicago Cubs in a 5-1 victory over a Texas Rangers split squad Saturday.
Samardzija (2-0) struck out three and walked one.
``It's exciting,' he said. ``I worked real hard in the offseason and I want to keep the positive momentum going. The onus is off my shoulders because of all the days of the season, only one day kicks it all off,' he said about being the opening day starter. ``It's nice because (I) don't have to go out and wow them for a job. I'm progressing and getting better, which is nice. Everything has to be in check and under control. I'm enjoying the step-by-step process in the spring.'
After allowing a leadoff single to Elvis Andrus in the first, Samardzija retired the next eight Rangers in a row.
``Unfortunately, I spent a fair amount of time here in Triple-A,' he said. ``I know the mound and I know the locker room; it's always a live, rowdy atmosphere. It's a good (place) to get the feel of the season.'
The Cubs were unable to capitalize on Nate Schierholtz's double that led off the second, but they took a 1-0 lead after Steve Clevenger opened the third with a double and Darwin Barney hit a one-out RBI single.
The Cubs increased their lead to 2-0 on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly later in the third.
Scott Hairston opened the fourth with a homer to left that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs increased their lead to 5-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic.
The Rangers narrowed the Cubs' lead to 5-1 in the sixth when Craig Gentry opened with a triple and scored on Mitch Moreland's RBI groundout.
Losing pitcher Nick Tepesch allowed five hits, struck out two and walked one over five innings for the Rangers.
Reliever Blake Parker struck out the side for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth.
NOTES: Clevenger was the lone player in the game to get two hits. ... The Cubs are 10-10 in spring training games here since 1993.
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