Jason Hammel strong again as Cubs down Pirates
CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo congratulated Jason Hammel for his first National League win after the Chicago Cubs topped the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Only, it wasn’t.
Not even Hammel’s first this season.
Hammel threw seven strong innings, Rizzo tied a career high with four hits, and Chicago won 7-5 on Wednesday night despite allowing five solo home runs. But Rizzo apparently forgot about Hammel’s victory last week — or the 27 the veteran right-hander had with Colorado.
“Just make sure that everybody knows that Rizzo was not there with us in Pittsburgh last week,” a joking Hammel said. “It’s a good one. It’s a good one.
“I didn’t know I didn’t win at all in Colorado, either.”
Signed to a one-year, $6 million contract over the offseason, Hammel (2-0) won his Cubs debut when he beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He got off to another good start in this one, retiring the first 12 batters until Pedro Alvarez’s first homer of the game tied it to start the fifth. Hammel allowed three runs and three hits — all solo homers — while striking out six.
Rizzo had his career-best fourth straight multi-hit game, Mike Olt and Junior Lake hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth against Wandy Rodriguez (0-2). Emilio Bonifacio, who entered leading the majors with 17 hits and a .515 batting average, was 2 for 5. Bonifacio had two runs for an offense that has scored 21 runs in its last three games after getting eight in its first five.
“We had some well-struck balls,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “They did there at the end, too, so it was a good night to hit.”
The Pirates found that out as well on a night where the wind was blowing steadily out.
Alvarez and Russell Martin homered twice for the Pirates, each getting their second in the ninth off Pedro Strop, and Travis Snider also went deep. It was Alvarez’s second multihomer game of the season and ninth of his career, and it the eighth of Martin’s career, but Pittsburgh only had one hit besides its five solo home runs.
“Well, we’re not giving up,” Martin said. “We’re still fighting. That’s kind of in our DNA. No matter what the score is, we’re going to give our best effort. We’re aware some days we’re going to get beat, but we’re never really going to cave in. Today they were better than us.”
Once again, the Cubs were better than Rodriguez, whom Hammel and Chicago beat for the second time.
Rodriguez went five innings, giving up four runs and nine hits, keeping the Pirates from clinching their third straight series win to start the season, something they haven’t done since 1992.
Rodriguez missed most of 2013 with a left forearm injury and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called his performance an “optimistic outing.”
“You’ve got to remember how long he’s been away from the mound,” Hurdle said. “He feels healthy. The first pitch strikes were good. A little more consistency and location, just execution at times.”
The Cubs’ offensive execution was better. Other than Rizzo’s congratulations to Hammel.
“I was excited. We had a great atmosphere in here after the game,” Rizzo said. “He pitched his tail off. We got him the W, so it’s nice. He’s off to a great 2-0 start.”
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Paul Beaty