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Blue Monday: Cubs put on show vs. Pirates

April 24, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- The first time the Cubs and Pirates met this season, the Bucs came from behind three days in a row to sweep the series at Wrigley Field. The Cubs ensured there would be no comeback Monday night, running up a big lead in the first two innings and

PITTSBURGH -- The first time the Cubs and Pirates met this season, the Bucs came from behind three days in a row to sweep the series at Wrigley Field. The Cubs ensured there would be no comeback Monday night, running up a big lead in the first two innings and cruising to a 14-3 win at PNC Park.
Addison Russell led the Cubs' assault on Chad Kuhl and the Pittsburgh bullpen with a career-high four hits, including an RBI single in the first inning. Jason Heyward followed by crushing the first pitch he saw into the center-field seats. After scoring four runs with two outs in the first, the Cubs put up five more in the second, capitalizing on Kuhl's rough night and the Pirates' sloppy defense behind him. Benjamin Zobrist cleared the bases with a double to right, Heyward's groundout plated another and left-hander Brett Anderson singled to drive in Russell.

"There's no weak spots," Anderson said of the Cubs' lineup. "It's got to be demoralizing for the [opposing] starters. I'm glad I'm on this side."
Despite six walks and a pair of potential injury scares, Anderson strung together a quality start by allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits over six innings.

"Technically, it was a quality start, but in my mind it wasn't very quality," Anderson said. "I'd like to have a start where I don't have to battle and grind."
Maddon sticking with Schwarber in left field 
Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: "Anderson wasn't as sharp as he could be but he's starting to show better signs. It was a really good game for him to build on."

Kuhl saw his ERA jump from 2.60 to 6.63 as he was charged with nine runs on eight hits and four walks while recording five outs. Kuhl has made 18 starts in the Majors and allowed three or fewer runs in 15 of them; the other three have all come against the Cubs.
"You have to look at one of those things that kind of happens in baseball. You're going to have these bad nights," Kuhl said. "You can't be a slave to the numbers, the ERA and stuff like that, because this is going to skew it for a while."
Down 10-1 after three innings, the Pirates removed Andrew McCutchen from the game; infielders David Freese and Jordy Mercer left the game an inning later. The Pirates' run differential dropped to minus-27, the second-lowest total in the Majors.
"Everything went bad today. I had a really, really embarrassing game. It was bad," said Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was charged with two errors. "But this is baseball. Things happen sometimes. Tomorrow's another day. We'll come fresh and ready to win."

Say, Heyward: Heyward is quickly putting a disappointing 2016 behind him. Last year, he hit his third homer on June 6. His third of this season came in the first inning, when he laced a 94.3-mph sinker from Kuhl a Statcast-projected 403 feet into the center-field seats. The ball came off Heyward's bat at 105.2 mph, according to Statcast™. His other two homers this year had exit velocities of 106.8 mph and 104.6 mph; all three were hit harder than any of his seven home runs a year ago.
"I'd say [the increased exit velocity] matters in the sense that this year there's more consistent solid contact and that's what you want to go for," said Heyward, who batted .230 last season, his first with the Cubs. "Line drives are great."
Right on target? Whether it was coincidence or not, the Cubs seemed to be directing all of their hits to right field against Kuhl. That put a strain on Jose Osuna, the rookie taking his turn in the Bucs' right-field rotation as they attempt to fill in for the suspended Starling Marte. Six of the Cubs' first seven hits went to right; the other was Heyward's homer. Osuna cleanly fielded Russell's first-inning single and made an accurate throw home, but catcher Francisco Cervelli couldn't handle the throw and allowed two runners to advance. With one out in the second, Osuna tracked down Zobrist's fly ball to the warning track, but the ball bounced off his glove and turned into a bases-clearing double. Osuna did acquit himself well at the plate, finishing a home run shy of the cycle as he went 3-for-3 with a double and his second career triple. More > 

"There's one catchable ball out there. The other balls, he got to what he can get to. Usually gloves it when he can get to it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You saw him go up to the plate and swing the bat. I was kind of hoping he'd hit a homer the last at-bat. That would have been nice. Still, he shows the ability to swing the bat."
"It's one of those days when anything you throw is a hit. … I just had a terrible game. I'll take the bullets today." --Cervelli
Called up before the game, reliever Dovydas Neverauskas made his Major League debut in the eighth inning and became the first born-and-raised Lithuanian to reach the big leagues. Neverauskas was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, and signed by the Bucs as an international free agent in July 2009. Outfielder Joe Zapustas, who grew up in Boston and played for the Philadelphia A's in 1933, was the first Lithuanian-born person to play in the Majors. More >

"Awesome," Neverauskas said. "I worked for it. It happened, and I was really excited."
Frazier placed on disabled list with strained hamstring
While the Cubs totaled 17 hits, matching a season-high, Anthony Rizzo was 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 12 games. It was the longest active streak in the Majors and tied Rizzo's career high.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will start on Tuesday in a rematch of a game April 14 at Wrigley Field. Hendricks took the loss that day, giving up three runs over five innings. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT from PNC Park.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole will try to get the Pirates back on track when he starts Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh. Cole is coming off consecutive six-inning, two-run starts on the road against the Cubs and Cardinals. He has pitched six innings in each of his last three starts.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.