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Javy's 2 homers not enough in home opener

April 10, 2018

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez did his best to give the crowd of 40,144 at the home opener something to celebrate on Tuesday, but the Cubs came up short.Baez smacked two home runs, both solo shots, in the Cubs' 8-5 loss to the Pirates at chilly Wrigley Field. Francisco Cervelli hit

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez did his best to give the crowd of 40,144 at the home opener something to celebrate on Tuesday, but the Cubs came up short.
Baez smacked two home runs, both solo shots, in the Cubs' 8-5 loss to the Pirates at chilly Wrigley Field. Francisco Cervelli hit a three-run homer and Starling Marte added a solo shot to power the Pirates, now 8-2 for the season, their best start since 1992.

"Right now I'm really impressed with their team on the field," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Pirates.
Baez was 0-for-7 in his career against Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova, but launched the first pitch he saw with two outs in the second for his first home run of the year.

With one out in the seventh, Baez connected again, hitting a 2-0 pitch again into the left-field bleachers. It was his second career multihomer game and first since Aug. 7, 2014, at Colorado, which was Baez's third career game. Baez did have a multihomer game in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers last October.
Sister Jean throws out the first pitch at Wrigley
"We know he can do that, that's no big surprise," Maddon said of Baez.
"To be honest, I was trying to hit the ball on the barrel and not get jammed because of the weather," Baez said. "I stayed short to the ball. The second at-bat [in the fifth], I came back to the old at-bats against him. He got me, but I got him back again."
Baez struck out against Nova in the fifth, one of six K's in the game for the right-hander.

"The first one, I was trying to go sinker down and away," Nova said of Baez's first homer. "The ball did nothing, came right back to the middle. The other one, I was trying to throw a four-seamer and do the same thing. The last one, I was behind in the count. I know he's pretty aggressive. I was looking to locate a pitch and get a quick out, but it didn't happen. He put some good swings on it."
The Cubs had two on and two out in the eighth, but Felipe Vazquez struck out Baez to end the inning. Baez wasn't thinking home run then.

"I was just keeping my same approach," Baez said. "We play them a lot and the way they've been pitching to me the last couple years, I've been making my adjustments. I was just trying to make contact and get a good pitch to hit."
Tyler Chatwood took the loss in his first Cubs start at Wrigley Field, giving up five runs over five innings, but he felt good about the outing.

"I felt I had really good stuff today and they were able to foul it off rather than get weak contact outs or something, so they did a good job of that," Chatwood said. "They're hot right now. It seemed like whenever they put the ball in play, good things happened for them. You've got to be able to get out of that."
Maddon felt there were two turning points in the game. In the first, Kyle Schwarber hit an opposite-field RBI single, but Willson Contreras, who was on first, was called out at third trying to advance after a review of the play. Maddon also wasn't happy about Cervelli's homer off Mike Montgomery in the seventh, which opened an 8-3 lead.
"[The Contreras play] was a big moment," Maddon said. "We were a little bit into Nova's head at that point. All of a sudden, you let them up. That, to me, was a turning point."
"We didn't play badly," Maddon said. "They hit the ball well today. They're swinging the bats really well right now this early in the season, so you have to give them credit."

Getting the job done: There were bright spots on offense. The Cubs had two on and one out in the first when Schwarber beat the shift with a single to left. One run scored. Jason Heyward also delivered a two-run single in the eighth against Vazquez when the Cubs had the bases loaded and two outs.

Rally time: The Pirates trailed, 2-1, in the third and had two on and one out when Josh Bell smacked an RBI double to tie the game. Corey Dickerson followed with a two-run double to put the Bucs ahead, 4-2. Cervelli reached on an infield single that shortstop Addison Russell knocked down. Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey went out for a visit and Chatwood got Jordy Mercer to hit a comebacker, enabling the Cubs to force the runner at home.

"I guess I'm lucky. It's a cool experience, especially when you have one here. All the fans. All the chatter, a lot of things they say against you when you're warming up in the bullpen that you use in your favor. You get that energy that they think is negative to you, it's good. Use it in your favor and have a good game."
-- Nova, on spoiling the Cubs' home opener -- the second time this season he won in his opponent's first home game
"It's early. What are we, 10 games in? There's 152 left. We'll see how it plays out."
-- Schwarber, on the Cubs' 5-5 start
The Cubs had runners at first and second in the first when Schwarber hit an RBI single. Contreras slid into third and was called safe. The Pirates challenged the call, saying Contreras came off the bag. After a review, the ruling was overturned and the inning was over.

Jonathan Lester will make his first start at Wrigley Field on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. CT. The left-hander threw six shutout innings against the Brewers in his last start to pick up the win. He's ahead of last year's pace, when it took him six starts to get his first "W." He even tested -- and completed -- his first bounce throw to get a baserunner. It's also the first night game of the season at Wrigley Field.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.