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Cubs 14, Pirates 1: Now that’s more like it

The Friendly Confines were very friendly to Cubs bats Tuesday evening.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Rain delayed action at Wrigley Field Tuesday for an hour and 25 minutes and when it got started, the Cubs didn’t wait long before unleashing bats that had been awfully quiet for almost a week.

A barrage that included 12 hits, six walks and four home runs led the Cubs to a 14-1 victory over their favorite 2023 opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates. If only the Cubs could play the Bucs every day — they’re 10-1 against them this year with two games remaining.

Javier Assad had a bit of a shaky first inning, but got out of it with no runs allowed.

Then the Cubs bats got to work. Nico Hoerner led off with a walk and Dansby Swanson deposited a baseball into the left-field basket [VIDEO].

That seemed just the thing to wake up Cubs bats. Bailey Falter, who allowed that Swanson home run, was the opener for the Cubs. Quinn Priester took over in the second and the Cubs greeted him with hits and runs. Christopher Morel led off with a walk and Patrick Wisdom doubled him in [VIDEO].

Wisdom advanced to third on an infield out and scored on this sac fly by Hoerner [VIDEO].

As you can see, the throw beat Wisdom to the plate, but the ball was not caught by Pirates catcher Endy Rodriguez.

Ke’Bryan Hayes homered off Assad in the top of the third to make it 4-1, but the Cubs got that run back right away in the bottom of the inning on a solo homer by Seiya Suzuki [VIDEO].

Suzuki is like a whole different player since that few games break he was given last month by David Ross. He went 3-for-4 with a walk Tuesday and is a serious candidate for N.L. Player of the Month for September. That homer made it 5-1.

Assad continued throwing well after Hayes’ homer. He allowed two more singles in the third, but got out of it on a fly to center and wound up retiring the last seven Pirates he faced. Overall, it was yet another good outing for Assad, who struck out eight in five innings. Here’s a breakdown of Assad’s start [VIDEO].

Here are Assad’s eight K’s [VIDEO].

The Cubs put one more on the board in the sixth to make it 6-1. Ian Happ led off with a walk and was forced at second by Morel.

Then this odd play happened [VIDEO].

Wisdom’s foul popup bounced off the wall near the dugout, but the umpires ruled that Alexander Canario, in the on-deck circle, had interfered with Hayes trying to catch the ball and Wisdom was ruled out. Looking at that video, it’s the correct call. Canario would immediately make up for his faux pas with this RBI double [VIDEO].

Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds slipped on the wet grass — after the delay, it rained lightly off and on for most of the game — but Canario will certainly take that for his first MLB hit.

Drew Smyly (sixth), Jose Cuas (seventh) and Mark Leiter Jr. (eighth) all threw scoreless innings, the only baserunner a one-out walk by Leiter that was immediately erased on an inning-ending double play.

Then the Cubs had some fun in the bottom of the eighth.

Pirates righthander Kyle Nicolas was on the mound to make his MLB debut. He hit the first batter he faced, Yan Gomes, who was forced at second. Then Nicolas walked Morel and Pete Crow-Armstrong to load the bases.

That brought Canario to the plate [VIDEO].

Guaranteed: Canario will never forget his first MLB home run, a grand slam. From BCB’s JohnW53:

Alexander Canario is the first Cub to hit a grand slam within the first two games of a career.

He is the 25th to hit a homer of any kind, and the 10th of those since 2000.

The previous nine were Corey Patterson (2000), Kosuke Fukudome (2008), Starlin Castro (2010), Javier Baez and Jorge Soler (both 2014), Willson Contreras (2016), Ian Happ (2017), Robel Garcia (2019) and Christopher Morel (2022).

Paul Gillespie (1942) and Roberto Pena (1965) both homered in each of their first 2 games.

Canario is also the second Cub since 2000 to hit a grand slam for his first career home run. You surely remember the other one — Taylor Davis, May 4, 2019 vs. the Cardinals [VIDEO].

It’s now 10-1 but the Cubs are not done pummeling Pirates pitching.

Hoerner and Swanson singled, and Derek Shelton mercifully pulled Nicolas. His replacement, Jose Hernandez, didn’t do any better. Cody Bellinger put a ball into the bleachers [VIDEO].

Bellinger, as you know, has been in a bit of a slump. Hopefully, that helps him get out of it. That ball was crushed! [VIDEO]

Another milestone: Bellinger’s homer was the 15,000th in Cubs franchise history.

The Cubs were not quite done, either. Suzuki followed with a double, his third hit of the game. After a fly to center, Jared Young batted for Happ [VIDEO].

A faster runner might have tried for an inside-the-park homer on that ball, but Young settled for an RBI triple. Young has 36 at-bats with the Cubs this year, and that’s his third triple, which ties him for third on the team with Swanson, who has... checks notes... 492 more at-bats. Fun!

Brad Boxberger had been warming up to throw the ninth, but with the eight-run eighth, he sat down and Luke Little wrapped things up by striking out the side in the top of the ninth (with one walk included). Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

Five Cubs pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts Tuesday, which is a season high.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak and just at the right time. With the Reds losing to the Twins Tuesday, the Cubs now hold the third wild-card spot by half a game ahead of the Marlins. They trail the Diamondbacks, who beat the Giants Tuesday, by half a game for the second wild-card spot, and with the win and a loss by the Phillies to the Braves, the Cubs move up to three games behind Philadelphia for the top wild-card spot.

All the Cubs have to do is continue to win like this — doesn’t even have to be by 14-1! — and a postseason spot will be theirs.

Last note on this game: It was the 23rd time the Cubs have scored 10 or more runs this year. That’s the most times any Cubs team has done that since 1935 when they had 24 such games. The team record is 34 times, set in 1929.

One note related to this game that I am going to share with you because I had already written it up in anticipation of Quinn Priester starting one of the games in this series, and since I already wrote it and Priester threw six innings in relief Tuesday and won’t throw again in this series, you’re going to get a chance to read it now!

Priester grew up in the Chicago area and went to Cary-Grove High School. He was the Pirates’ first-round pick (18th overall) in 2019.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about him. This is: His great-grandfather, George Priester, founded Priester Aviation in 1945. That’s a private aviation company headquartered at what was then Palwaukee Airport, now Chicago Executive Airport, in Wheeling. The Priester family still runs the company. You can read more about it here, and here’s a more detailed article on the Priester family and Chicago-area aviation. And here’s more on Quinn Priester growing up as a Cubs fan.

Moving on: The Cubs host the Pirates in the second of this three-game series Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Mitch Keller will go for the Pirates. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.