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Wandy drops rematch vs. Cubs amid five HRs

Alvarez's two homers top offense, but Chicago again gets best of starter

CHICAGO -- Jason Hammel finally met Wrigley Field on Wednesday night, and if the Cubs' starter felt blown away, it might have had something to do with the wind constantly sending balls over the fence.

But Pirates manager Clint Hurdle already knew the place well, so he was not particularly impressed by the weird events of the Cubs' 7-5 victory over his Bucs.

"You can chalk that up to Wrigley Field," Hurdle said after the Pirates hit five home runs -- of their six total hits -- in the loss. "A lot of crazy things in the game tonight."

Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin each hitting two home runs was not so crazy, as it was their ninth and eighth multi-homer games, respectively.

But how about this: The Bucs scoring five runs while going 0-for-0 with men in scoring position.

"Don't know if you've ever seen that before," Hurdle said, chuckling. "Not a single man in scoring position, and we get five runs."

Something the Pirates had seen before: Wandy Rodriguez pitching well, enough so for delight over the effort to outweigh disappointment over the loss.

"The line doesn't look as good as what we saw," Hurdle said after the lefty went through 99 pitches in five innings. "All in all, an optimistic outing for him. He's doing some good things. And he feels healthy."

And things should get better from here for Rodriguez, because he will not have to see either Emilio Bonifacio or Hammel for at least two months.

For the second time in six days, those two Cubs ganged up on the Pittsburgh lefty, this time in front of 28,247 at Wrigley Field.

Bonifacio helped Chicago to a quick lead by, naturally, leading off the first with a single and eventually scoring on Justin Ruggiano's double. Rodriguez exacted a bit of revenge three innings later with his best clutch pitches of the night, but he could not revel in that for too long.

Hammel again tamed the Pirates' lineup, holding it to three hits in seven innings -- and not much caring that all three hits left the yard, because he had a big lead with which to work.

"Two consecutive outings, he's made pitches against us; he's been a puzzle for us," Hurdle said. "We wanted to counter-punch better than we were able to."

"He's making pitches, keeping the ball down," Martin said, "and when he does, he's got good movement on his fastball."

The Bucs muscled up for three homers off Hammel, but all were solo, and two came after he already had a 7-1 lead, with the Cubs roughing up both Rodriguez and reliever Jeanmar Gomez.

"I got my first taste of Wrigley, and I hope it's much kinder next time," Hammel said. "When the wind is howling out, you've got to keep the ball down, and I made three mistakes today, and they all left the yard. I think a couple of those are outs in other ballparks, but you still have to keep the ball down."

The Pirates hit two more solo homers in the ninth, with Alvarez and Martin going back to back off Pedro Strop.

"We don't give up, whatever the score. We keep fighting. That's kinda our DNA," Martin said. "We're aware that some days we'll get beat, but we'll never cave in."

The previous time the night's starters met, last Thursday in Pittsburgh, the Bucs had gotten two hits off Hammel in 6 2/3 innings. That looked like a beating compared to what he did to them through four Wednesday night, retiring the first 12 batters he saw.

The string, and all the zeros, ended when Alvarez led off with the fifth with his third homer of the season, temporarily tying the score at 1.

The Cubs went to their long game to reclaim the lead minutes later. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Anthony Rizzo singled, and Mike Olt followed with a homer into the left-field bleachers, his second on the year, both struck off Rodriguez. Junior Lake then followed with a homer over the left-field bleachers, onto Waveland Avenue.

The changeup punished by Lake was, by all accounts, the only truly bad one of Rodriguez's 99 pitches.

"Everything I threw tonight was very good -- curve, most changeups," Rodriguez said. "Except for that last change [to Lake] … big mistake."

Rodriguez was finished after that inning -- he was charged with nine hits and four runs over five -- but the Cubs were not. They added three more runs in the sixth against Gomez, the last of them scoring when Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged the out call at first on Lake for what would have been an inning-ending double play. After review, umpire Mark Carlson's call was overturned, counting the run Rizzo had carried in from third.

In the fourth, after Hammel's sacrifice bunt had moved up two runners -- thus also leaving first base open -- Martin engaged Rodriguez in a little mound-top chat. Presumably, the subject was whether to pitch to Bonifacio's resume -- he is, after all, a lifetime .266 hitter -- or give in to his fire, as blinking on the scoreboard was his current .514 average. Rodriguez chose "resume," and he struck out Bonifacio. However, Rodriguez was running for cover the next inning, and the game was soon out of reach.

Seventh-inning home runs by Travis Snider and Martin thus could only downgrade Hammel's effort from genuine gem to solid performance.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Wandy Rodriguez, Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin