New Cubs, familiar sight
Cubs manager Lou Piniella took a wrong turn in the tunnel while returning to the clubhouse after batting practice Monday before a security guard pointed him in the right direction.

It might take a while before Piniella gets used to Wrigley Field, just as it will take a while for Chicago to get used to Piniella.

After his Cubs lost 5-3 to Houston in the home opener at Wrigley, Piniella refused to use the umpires, the cold weather or Opening Day jitters as excuses.

"We just got beat, pure and simple," Piniella said.

The Cubs clawed back from a 3-0 deficit with two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, hot-wiring the chilled crowd of 41,388 when Alfonso Soriano scored the tying run from second on an infield hit by Jacque Jones.

But Bob Howry served up a two-run home run to Adam Everett in the eighth after thinking he'd struck out Everett on a 1-2 pitch. But plate umpire James Hoye called it a ball, and the rest is history.

"We thought it was a good pitch," Piniella said. "The ump thought it was inside."

Howry said afterward it could have gone either way, and catcher Michael Barrett said after watching a videotape that Hoye had made the correct call.

Either way, Howry was tagged with his second loss of the young season, and the Cubs fell to 3-4.

"I go out there and blow a game, regardless of what day it is, they all hurt," Howry said. "You want to get off to a good start at home. I know we didn't play very well here last year. We didn't play very [well] anywhere."

Ted Lilly pitched well after giving up back-to-back doubles to start the game, allowing four more hits in a six-inning stint that ended with the Cubs trailing 3-0.

"I was a little too amped up," Lilly said. "I wasn't as much in control as I was in my first start—mentally, especially. It was almost one of those days where you're trying too hard."

Aramis Ramirez's run-scoring single off Woody Williams in the bottom of the sixth got the Cubs on the board, and Barrett added an opposite-field RBI double to make it 3-2.

With Soriano on second and two outs in the seventh, Jones hit a chopper to Craig Biggio at second, and Soriano took off for the plate as soon as Biggio threw to first. Lance Berkman couldn't handle Biggio's errant throw, and his throw to the plate was late, allowing Soriano to score.

"When I saw him throw to first, I was going home," Soriano said. "I wanted to make them make two throws home, because I had a very good jump."

Look for Soriano to keep opponents on their toes with aggressive baserunning.

"Especially in a moment like this, with cold weather and us looking for one run," he said. But the Cubs' offense was missing most of the day. Their last chance fell by the wayside when Cliff Floyd hit into a double play after Rick White issued a leadoff walk in the eighth.

Floyd, who said he was so nervous about returning home that he "felt like I was going to puke" early on, blamed himself for failing to deliver with runners on base in all four at-bats.

"Then the umpire (Hoye) got in my head after White threw the first pitch for a strike," he said. "[I] thought it was a little low. You put yourself in some bad predicaments, and the day just didn't turn out like you'd like.

"It was unfortunate, but I liked the way we bounced back from a 3-0 deficit. Showed we have some heart. We're going to fight the whole year."

psullivan@tribune.com