Cubs Record: 18-6
W: Jason Hammel (4-0)
L: Gerrit Cole (2-3)
MVP: Dexter Fowler
The Cubs visited the Pirates in Pittsburgh tonight for the first of ten meetings at PNC Park and picked up right where they left off.
Cubs faced Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who is probably still having flashbacks from the 2015 Wild Card game. While the Cubs were without Kyle Schwarber, the guy who crushed a pitch from Cole into the Allegheny River, they still managed to knock Cole around for six runs over just 4 2/3 innings.
After falling behind 1-0 on a solo home run by Andrew McCutchen in the first, the Cubs scored two runs in the third to go up 2-1 and they never looked back.
The inning began with a walk to Dexter Fowler. Two outs later, Anthony Rizzo was at the plate and Fowler stole second. On a 3-2 count, Rizzo hit his third double of the year driving in Fowler to tie the game. Next up was Ben Zobrist, who smacked a single to right to give the Cubs their second run.
The Cubs struck again in the 5th inning when they erupted for four runs to take a 6-1 lead. The big blow of the inning was a soft single to right field off the bat of David Ross that platied two runs.
The Pirates answered with a run in their half of the 5th after putting men on second and third with only one out and Andrew McCutchen at the plate. He grounded out and the man on third scored to make it 6-2, but the game was never really in question after that.
The Cubs tacked on a run in the top of the 7th on a wild pitch by Pirates reliever Kyle Lobstein to bring the final score to 7-2.
Dexter Fowler started making noise from his very first at-bat of the season and he surely hasn’t quieted down. He’s one of those guys that is hard to keep off of the bases, as evidenced by a Major League-leading on base percentage (.476). He was on base three times tonight with two hits and a walk.
Jason Hammel may have only pitched five innings, but he threw a pretty good ball game. He gave up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out three and was able to work out of a men on 2nd and 3rd with one out jam in the 5th inning by giving up only one run on a ground out. Hammel got the win tonight and is a perfect 4-0 with a sparkling ERA of 1.24.
Scoring was a team effort today as it always is. Every single Cub that went to the plate was able to get on base, with the exception of Tommy La Stella. The Cubs scored seven times and six different guys crossed the plate. They are second in the league in runs scored right after the St.Louis Cardinals.
Gerrit Cole certainly didn’t have his best stuff tonight and really struggled with command, running his pitch count to 60 after just three innings. The Pirates played an 11-inning ballgame yesterday and you can imagine they really wanted Cole to go deep into the game to preserve the bullpen. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t happen as he left the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. All of the men he put on base came around to score.
The Pirates had two errors in the game, one of which became an unearned run. That error was in the the top of the 5th when Josh Harrison tried to catch Matt Szczur stealing home but threw it away to allow the run to score. The defensive miscues, along with Gerrit Cole’s lack of command, made for an ugly ballgame for the Pirates.
The Cubs play two more in Pittsburgh and send their two best pitchers to the mound. Tomorrow it’ll be Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, who makes his return to Pittsburgh after shutting the Buccos out in the Wild Card game last season. In the series finale on Wednesday, it’ll be Jon Lester vs. Juan Nicasio. After the Cubs leave Pittsburgh, they have a really nice set of games at home and will play 10 games in 11 days at Wrigley starting with a four-game series against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals. It’s safe to say that those games will be the Cubs’ strongest challenge on this young season.