CHICAGO (AP) – Russell Martin struggled to recall the last time he witnessed such wacky production from his team’s offense.
The Pittsburgh Pirates hit five home runs against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night, including two home runs each from Martin and Pedro Alvarez. The problem was Pittsburgh finished with only one other hit and never had a runner in scoring position during a 7-5 loss to the Cubs.
“You can chalk that one up to Wrigley Field because a lot of crazy things can happen here,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “At the end of the day, the hole was dug a little deeper than we were able to climb out of.”
For the second time in less than a week, Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel puzzled the Pirates.
Signed to a one-year, $6 million contract over the offseason, Hammel (2-0) won his Cubs debut when he beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He got off to another good start in this one, retiring the first 12 batters until Alvarez’s first homer of the game tied it to start the fifth.
“I got my first taste of Wrigley,” Hammel said. “I hope they’re much kinder next time. When the wind’s howling out, you’ve got to keep the ball down. Made three mistakes today and they all left the yard, so I think a couple of those are outs in other ballparks, but still nonetheless, got to keep the ball down.”
Hammel allowed three runs and three hits – all solo homers – while striking out six. Mike Olt and Junior Lake hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth against Wandy Rodriguez (0-2).
“When’s he down he’s got good movement on his fastball,” Martin said of Hammel. “The bottom line is he’s making pitches. That’s really all it is. Obviously we’re not taking advantage of every opportunity, but he’s doing a good job you’ve got to give him some credit.”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s four hits tied a career high, and it was his career-best fourth straight multihit game.
Alvarez and Martin each got their second homer in the ninth off Pedro Strop, and Travis Snider also went deep. It was Alvarez’s second multihomer game of the season and ninth of his career, and it the eighth of Martin’s career.
Chicago’s Emilio Bonifacio, who entered leading the majors with 17 hits and a .515 batting average, was 2 for 5 with two runs scored for an offense that has scored 21 runs in its last three games after getting eight in its first five.
Rodriguez, whom Hammel beat April 3, took his second loss against the Cubs. He went five innings, giving up four runs and nine hits, keeping the Pirates from clinching their third straight series win to start the season, something they haven’t done since 1992. Rodriguez missed most of 2013 with a left forearm injury and Hurdle called his performance an “optimistic outing.”
“You’ve got to remember how long he’s been away from the mound,” Hurdle said. “He feels healthy. The first pitch strikes were good. A little more consistency and location, just execution at times.”
Rodriguez fell behind early when Justin Ruggiano’s first-inning double drove in Bonifacio, who had his sixth multihit game in eight this season.
Pittsburgh tied it in the fifth when Alvarez hit his third homer of the season. On a 1-2 count, Alvarez launched a drive into the bleachers in left field, aided by a wind that was steadily blowing out all night.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the inning with two homers and three runs. Olt, whose only hit of the season had been a homer against Rodriguez in the teams’ first meeting, took the first pitch he saw and hit it into the basket in left for a two-run homer that made it 3-1.
Lake then gave the Cubs their first back-to-back homers of the year when he ripped a 2-0 pitch out of the stadium and onto Waveland Ave.
The Cubs blew the game open in the sixth, scoring three more times to take a 7-1 lead. Their third run came when Lake was originally called out at first on a double-play grounder, but Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged the call by umpire Mark Carlson, getting it overturned and allowing Rizzo to score.
In the seventh, Snider and Martin hit their solo home runs off Hammel, who was replaced by Hector Rondon to start the eighth.
NOTES: Hurdle said C Chris Stewart (arthroscopic surgery on his right knee) is coming along as he rehabilitates. Hurdle said Stewart is working on getting at-bats and catching five-inning games as part of his version of spring training. … Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (right oblique) went six innings and allowed two runs and five hits while striking out 10 and walking one in a rehab outing at Single-A Bradenton.