Over the last few seasons, PNC Park has been one of Cubs’ hitters favorite places to hit. That was especially true on this day as they had 17 hits and 14 runs in a blowout of the Pirates highlighted by a three-run homer from Jason Heyward. After this win the Cubs were 11-8 and led the N.L. Central by 1½ games.
Brett Anderson had a bit of a shaky outing Monday which included two visits from the team trainer. He wound up with a “quality start,” for whatever that term is worth.
Fortunately, Anderson didn’t really need to throw all that well as his teammates backed him with a 17-hit attack which included four runs before he threw a pitch. Jason Heyward hit a three-run homer and Addison Russell had the first four-hit game of his career in a 14-3 blowout of the Pirates, the Cubs’ most runs and hits and biggest margin of victory of the season to date.
Heyward’s hitting of late is great to see. He’s hitting .294/.333/.824 (5-for-17) on the road trip thus far, with three home runs and 11 RBI. J-Hey didn’t hit his third home run last year until June 6, the Cubs’ 56th game of the 2016 season. It’s still early, but it looks like Heyward’s hard work over the winter in revamping his swing is paying off. He squared up well on this swing, a three-run first-inning homer:
Jason Heyward has 10 RBI in his last four games.— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 24, 2017
And three of these: pic.twitter.com/er2wXItgH8
Notes on Heyward and his home runs so far this year:
FYI, exit velocity on Heyward's HR was 105 mph, and it traveled 403 happy feet. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 24, 2017
One more exit velocity note on #Cubs Heyward: His HRs this year: 106.8 mph, 104.6 and 105. All were harder than any HR he hit last year— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 25, 2017
The Pirates put one on the board off Anderson in the bottom of the first to make it 4-1, but the Cubs put the game pretty much out of reach with a five-run second inning that included a bases-clearing double by Ben Zobrist [VIDEO].
That inning also featured an RBI single from Anderson, who has a nice self-deprecating sense of humor:
My offensive performance was better than pitching today. Might be the first and last time ever.— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) April 25, 2017
For the record: Anderson is 7-for-75 (.093) lifetime as a hitter with 46 strikeouts. He issued six walks Monday night, which isn’t optimal, but with that early big lead it didn’t matter.
Javier Baez and Kris Bryant drove in runs in a two-run sixth that made it 12-1, and the final two runs scored on a wild pitch (seventh) and double play (eighth). The double play was hit into by Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo and Baez were the only Cubs who didn’t have hits Monday night, but Rizzo walked twice and scored twice and Baez hit a sac fly for his RBI. The Cubs, in addition to the 17 hits, drew nine walks (two of which were Manfreds). That gives them 78 walks for the season, or 4.11 per game. Current season pace: 665.
The last run was scored off Pirates reliever Dovydas Neverauskas, who was making his major-league debut. That’s of interest because Neverauskas is the first player in major-league history who was born and raised in Lithuania. Here’s the story of how he made it to the Pirates organization, an interesting read. He’s got talent — WGN’s pitch-speed meter had him throwing a couple of pitches at 98.
For the Cubs, it was good to see Justin Grimm and Brian Duensing throw scoreless frames, even in garbage time. Neither walked a batter; each allowed one hit, which proved to be harmless.
It was also good to see the Cubs reassert their dominance over the Pirates (last year, they were 14-4 against them) after being swept by them at Wrigley Field a bit more than a week ago. The Cubs now rank second in the National League with 103 runs scored (the Diamondbacks are first at 112).
The Cubs will try to make it two in a row (and five of their last six) Tuesday evening at PNC Park. Kyle Hendricks will go for the Cubs and Gerrit Cole for the Pirates.