The Chicago Cubs bested the Pittsburgh Pirates in what was a delightful showing from the bullpen during the home opener at Wrigley.
Ben Zobrist led off the game with a walk against Pirates starter Jameson Taillon but would not come around to score, with Kris Bryant lining out to short, Anthony Rizzo striking out swinging, and Javier Báez striking out looking.
Jon Lester started on the mound and got two strikeouts in a row from Adam Frazier and Starling Marte. Francisco Cervelli walked, but no damage was done, as Josh Bell grounded into a force out with Cervelli out at second base to end the inning.
The Cubs piled on in the second inning. Daniel Descalso reached on a throwing error by Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman with two outs, and Taillon then made the mistake of intentionally walking Jason Heyward to get to Lester. Lester responded with an RBI double to put the Cubs up 1-0. The inning would end with the Cubs ahead 6-0 after RBI singles from Zobrist, Rizzo, and Báez; as well as another error from Newman that allowed Rizzo to score with Kyle Schwarber at bat.
Lester appeared to be throwing tentatively at the top of the third and faced only one batter, Steven Brault (who had entered the game in relief of Taillon). Brault singled to right and Lester then left the game due to left hamstring tightness. Brad Brach took over pitching and got Marte to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and Cervelli to strike out looking.
With Brault now pitching for the Pirates, Descalso doubled to the left field corner, followed by a walk to Heyward. Brach bunted to load the bases, and Descalso scored as Zobrist grounded into a double play. Bryant then followed with a double to score Heyward and put the Cubs up 8-0. The inning ended with a strikeout from Rizzo.
Schwarber added two more runs for the cubs with a home run in the fourth inning, bringing the score to 10-0.
David Bote entered the game for the Cubs in the fifth, replacing Descalso, and Brandon Kintzler came in to pitch. Kintzler got Brault out looking, a lineout from Frazier, and then hit Marte with a pitch. The inning ended with a strikeout from Jacob Stallings, who entered in relief of Cervelli at catcher.
Stallings stayed in the game for the Pirates in the bottom of the fifth, and Jason Martin entered the game in place of Melky Cabrera in right field and Pablo Reyes moved from left to right field. Bote lined out, Zobrist walked, Bryant grounded into a force out, and Rizzo had another strikeout.
Kintzler worked a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth with groundouts from Bell, Jung-ho Kang, and Martin.
Francisco Liriano pitched for the Pirates in the sixth and Colin Moran replaced Kang at third base. Liriano also had a 1-2-3 inning, with a strikeout from Báez, a flyout to left from Schwarer, and another strikeout from Willson Contreras.
Randy Rosario took the mound in the seventh, Albert Almora Jr entered in center field, and Mark Zagunis came in to play right field. Rosario got a flyout from Reyes, a lineout to first from Moran, and a comebacker from Frazier that he easily flipped to first for the third out.
New Pirates pitcher Nick Burdi faced Bryant, Victor Caratini (who had replaced Rizzo in the top of the inning), and Báez in the eighth, all of whom struck outz.
Pedro Strop closed out the game for the Cubs and gave up a leadoff single to Martin. Pinch-hitter JB Shuck replaced Reyes and walked. Newman then struck out swinging, and Moran grounded into a double play to end the game.
What a relief to see the bullpen take over early and get through it! The Cubs won yet again on an offensive explosion during a great home opener. Aside from Lester's injury, of course, but hopefully that will be resolved before his next start.