CHICAGO — The Pirates hit five solo home runs over the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field Wednesday night, yet lost to the Cubs, 7-5.
“You can chalk that one up to Wrigley Field,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “A lot of crazy things can happen here.”
The game got away in the fifth inning, when Wandy Rodriguez’s second start of the season was clipping along just fine.
Rodriguez was an out away from five solid innings when Anthony Rizzo managed a two-out single. Within minutes, two balls sailed up and over the left-field wall as the Cubs got back-to-back home runs by Mike Olt and Junior Lake to go ahead, 4-1, and then went on to win.
Both home run pitches were changeups.
“The changeup up to Lake? That might have been the only bad pitch [Rodriguez] threw all night,” Hurdle said. “The line doesn’t look as good as what we think we saw. You’ve got to remember how long he’s been away from the mound. All in all, still an optimistic outing for him.”
Rodriguez finished out the fifth, and the Cubs tacked on three more runs in the sixth off reliever Jeanmar Gomez.
“The one mistake would be the one mistake to Lake,” catcher Russell Martin said. “Other than that, [Rodriguez] threw the ball well and the other team got lucky with a well-placed single. We just didn’t do enough to win. They took advantage of that one mistake and it just escalated.”
The Pirates never reached scoring position all game despite two home runs each from Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin, and one from Travis Snider.
The offense struggled against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who had another strong outing.
Hammel repeatedly sent the Pirates back to the dugout 1-2-3, allowing no batter to reach base for the first four innings in his first start at Wrigley Field since he was acquired by the Cubs in the offseason.
Hammel went seven innings, giving up three home runs, three earned runs and a walk to go with six strikeouts.
Starling Marte nearly reached in the fourth with a sharply hit grounder deep to shortstop, but Starlin Castro made the play in time.
One batter later Castro caught a pop-up by Snider, back-pedalling into shallow center to make the grab.
Alvarez took Hammel deep for an opposite-field home run to open the fifth inning and tie the score, 1-1. He homered again in the ninth off Pedro Strop.
Snider and Martin each homered in the seventh off Hammel and Martin homered again in the ninth off Strop — but the damage was done.
“[Hammel] was just making pitches. And we’re not really taking advantage of every opportunity,” Martin said. “We’re not giving up. We’re going to keep fighting. That’s kind of our DNA, no matter what the score is. We’re aware some days we’re going to get beat. [Wednesday night] they were better than us, scored more runs and we’ll try and win the series [today].”
Chicago’s Emilio Bonifacio continued his flurry of hits with a single from the leadoff position in the first and scored from first on a double to left by Justin Ruggiano to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Bonifacio struck out swinging in the fourth with two runners in scoring position, victim of a fastball that was up and away.
Rodriguez was sailing along in the fifth and had given up one earned run through 4⅔ innings when Rizzo, down 0-2 in the count, singled to start the rally that turned the start south.
Rodriguez finished the fifth with a line of 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks and 6 strikeouts.
“Five runs without a runner in scoring position,” Hurdle said. “We battled. Kept playing nine hard innings. At the end of the day, the hole was dug a little deeper than we were able to climb out of.”
The Pirates struggled against Hammel a week ago in a 3-2 loss at PNC Park, managing just one run on two hits in 6⅔ innings.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published April 9, 2014 11:13 PM