Lyles K's 10, dominates Cubs in win

April 11th, 2019

CHICAGO -- hasn’t always trusted an array of pitches like he has learned to do later in his big league career.

He will admit that in the past, he attempted to coerce the ball over the plate rather than throwing with enough conviction that his pitches would do what he wanted. But since finding a comfort level with the mix of pitches he now throws, Lyles has found a new measure of success.

That continued Wednesday night, when Lyles matched a career high with 10 strikeouts and received backing through home runs from Francisco Cervelli and Starling Marte in a 5-2 Pirates win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Lyles allowed one run on three hits over six innings and has now allowed just the one run over 11 innings in his first two starts this season. His mastery of a changeup, curveball, slider and four-seam fastball baffled the Cubs in less-than-ideal conditions, as temperatures hovered around 40 degrees and winds swirled at 20 mph.

“It was just a professional performance,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was on top of things. ... It was fun to watch.”

Eight of Lyles’ strikeouts came against the first six batters in the Cubs’ lineup, including punching out Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber twice each. The right-hander faced serious trouble only once when the Cubs put runners on second and third base with no one out in the third inning. Lyles responded by striking out Cubs starter Yu Darvish and Daniel Descalso before he escaped the jam unscathed by getting Kris Bryant to fly out.

“I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” Lyles said.

The Pirates’ offense provided Lyles sufficient support, as Cervelli and Marte homered off of Darvish in the first three innings. Marte’s two-run homer in the third gave Lyles all the cushion he needed, as the Bucs rebounded from a 10-0 loss in Chicago’s home opener on Monday.

Lyles rolled from there and allowed just a Jason Heyward solo home run to straightaway center field in the fifth inning. Pittsburgh’s bullpen took matters from there, as Pirates pitchers combined to register 15 strikeouts in the victory, including four by closer Felipe Vazquez en route to his third save.

But it was Lyles who took center stage by relying on the conviction that once eluded him.

“We did a much better job of that tonight, of getting after it and letting the ball do what it’s supposed to after it leaves my hand and not worrying about much other than that,” he said.

Although effective over the 11 innings he has pitched, Lyles won’t read too much into such a limited body of work. But moving forward, if the 28-year-old can continue to pitch at the level he has established early on, Hurdle said the Pirates may have gotten exactly what they were looking.

“He had every desire to be a starting pitcher and our opportunity was real,” Hurdle said. “We were very aggressive in letting him know that this is an opportunity that we wanted to try and put together for both of us. … He’s taken the ball and really moved it forward.”

Cervelli gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first inning when he delivered a solo shot into the left-field bleachers. Two innings later, after Darvish hit Lyles with a pitch with one out and then struck out Adam Frazier, Marte lifted Darvish’s first pitch high and into the seats down the left-field line.

The Pirates padded their lead in the sixth inning when Josh Bell came through with an RBI single and Cervelli scored on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Cubs reliever Kyle Ryan.

The Cubs trimmed the deficit to three runs in the eighth inning when Javier Baez drove in Bryant with a one-out double. Chicago put runners on second and third base before Vazquez struck out Schwarber and got Willson Contreras to fly out.