PITTSBURGH (AP) — Addison Russell set a career high with four hits, Jason Heyward homered for the third time in four games and drove in four runs as the Chicago Cubs jumped on the Pittsburgh Pirates early in a 14-3 victory on Monday night.
Ben Zobrist added three RBIs for Chicago as the defending World Series champions won for the fifth time in six games. Anthony Rizzo had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero all had two hits apiece for the Cubs.
Chicago scored four runs with two outs in the first inning off Chad Kuhl (1-2) and added five more in the second to give Brett Anderson (2-0) all the breathing room he would need.
Anderson struggled at times with his command, walking six in six innings while striking out three and allowed three runs, one earned.
Rookie Jose Osuna had three of Pittsburgh’s seven hits and drove in a run. Kuhl lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up nine runs as his ERA ballooned from 2.60 to 6.63 in less than an hour.
The Cubs are starting to get it going after a sluggish start, averaging 8.8 runs during their recent surge to first in the NL Central. It has helped take some of the pressure off a pitching staff that is struggling to get any sort of consistency from its starters.
At cold and wet PNC Park, it didn’t matter.
Kuhl, who pitched well while never allowing more than two runs during his first three starts, ran into trouble quickly. He retired the first two batters he faced when everything fell apart. Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist walked and Russell brought Rizzo home with a single to right. Heyward then took a Kuhl offering and sent it into the seats in right-center field to make it 4-0.
Things got no better for Kuhl or the Pirates in the second. With All-Star center fielder Starling Marte serving a drug suspension until July, the Pirates have been forced to shuffle their defense, moving Andrew McCutchen back to center field and platooning in right.
The initial results have been less than promising. Four of Chicago’s five hits in the second went to right, with three runs scoring when Osuna couldn’t handle a fly ball by Zobrist to the wall. Even Anderson managed an RBI on a single up the middle.
By the time Kuhl left the mound with two outs in the second in favor of reliever Trevor Williams, the Pirates trailed by eight and their three-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field earlier this month felt like a distant memory.
Anderson didn’t exactly cruise during his six innings of work – retiring Pittsburgh in order just once – but was never in any danger of losing the massive cushion.