Pittsburgh Pirates starter Francisco Liriano once again found himself in trouble early on in Game 1 of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The 32-year-old yielded three home runs in the contest, leading to a 9-4 win for the Cubs, their fifth consecutive victory over the Pirates dating back to the 2015 National League Wild Card game.
In the fourth inning, Liriano yielded a three-run home run to Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who deposited his third home run of the season into the left field seats to give the Cubs an early 3-0 advantage.
One inning later, Liriano again found himself in trouble with the long ball, giving up a two-run shot to third baseman Kris Bryant, his sixth of the season, and a three-run home run to catcher David Ross, his third of the year.
Liriano was replaced in the bottom of the fifth inning by Ryan Vogelsong, who ended the inning by striking out opposing pitcher, Jason Hammel.
Liriano had his second shortest outing of the season this afternoon, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits while walking four and striking out seven in 4.2 innings of work.
Following Liriano’s departure, the Pirates bats finally got to work, attempting to cut into the Cubs big lead.
Gregory Polanco led off the inning with a double into right field and was followed by an opposite field single into right field by Starling Marte.
With Francisco Cervelli at the plate, Marte would steal second, his 10th steal of the season, and Polanco would score the Pirates opening run of the game on an avid throw to second base by Ross. Cervelli would then dribble an infield single down the third base line, scoring Marte and cutting the lead to 8-2.
After a scoreless seventh, the Pirates once again threatened in the eighth thanks to, once again, a leadoff double by Polanco and a single on a soft ground ball in the infield by Marte. However, reliever Trevor Cahill induced two flyouts and one groundout to escape the inning without any damage.
The Cubs picked up an insurance run in the eighth inning on an RBI double by outfielder Dexter Fowler that scored Ross from second base. Chicago would take a 9-2 lead on that play, but the Pirates wouldn’t go away without a fight.
With Cahill remaining on the mound, Andrew McCutchen deposited a two run home run, his eighth of the season, into the left center field stands to trim the deficit to 9-4. However, the Pirates were unable to complete the comeback, falling to 0-4 on the season against Chicago.
Despite the lopsided score, the Pirates finished the game with 11 hits, the same amount as the Cubs.
The performance by Cubs starter Jason Hammel didn’t help the Pirates out much either, as he gave up one earned run on eight hits while walking two and striking out eight. Hammel threw 103 pitches in the effort – 65 for strikes – while picking up his fifth victory of the season.
In four games against Chicago this season, the Pirates have been outscored 29-9, while allowing at least six runs in each game.
The Pirates will look to win their first game of the season against the Cubs tomorrow afternoon, as they send Jeff Locke (1-2 4.68 ERA) to the mound to face Jake Arrieta (6-0 1.13 ERA) in game two of the three game series at Wrigley Field. In his last three starts, Locke has posted three consecutive quality starts while sporting a 2.84 ERA.