Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run homer and Chicago’s beleaguered bullpen stepped up after Jon Lester departed with left hamstring tightness, leading the Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-0 in their home opener on Monday.
Brad Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Randy Rosario and Pedro Strop combined for seven innings of four-hit ball after Lester was removed with two on and no outs in the third. Brach (1-0) pitched two innings for his first win with the Cubs.
Chicago had an 8.37 bullpen ERA on its opening 2-7 trip, amplifying concerns about pitching depth with relievers Brandon Morrow, Xavier Cedeno and Tony Barnette sidelined by injuries. Manager Joe Maddon said he was confident the bullpen will settle eventually, and it delivered on a picturesque day at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh had won four in a row, but it hurt itself with four errors, including three by shortstop Kevin Newman. Melky Cabrera had two of the Pirates’ seven hits.
The game began to get away from Pittsburgh after Jameson Taillon (0-2) retired the first two batters in the second. Daniel Descalso reached on a throwing error by Newman, and Chicago was off and running.
After Jason Heyward was walked intentionally, Lester drove a 0-2 pitch into the gap in left-center for an RBI double. Lester scored from second on Ben Zobrist’s two-run single, sliding home safely for a 3-0 lead.
Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez tacked on RBI singles, and Newman committed two more errors on a Schwarber grounder, allowing another run to come home. Baez shrugged as he stood on first base after throwing his bat at a ball in the dirt, leading to a liner that just got over Newman’s head.
Taillon was charged with six unearned runs and four hits in two innings. Rizzo’s run-scoring single appeared to go off his head, but he stayed in the game.
Schwarber capped the scoring when he drove a 1-0 pitch from Steven Brault over the wall in left-center for his third homer in the fourth, delighting the crowd of 40,692. He went deep 26 times last season.
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco (left shoulder surgery) and RHP Dovydas Neverauskas (left oblique strain) began rehab assignments with Class A Bradenton on Sunday.
Cubs: Morrow (elbow surgery) has completed each of his bullpen sessions so far “without incident,” according to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. The next step for Morrow is expected to be finalized this week. … Barnette (right shoulder inflammation) and Cedeno (left wrist inflammation) are “moving along and getting closer to the possibility of rehab assignments,” Epstein said. “No setbacks with either guy.”
Following an off day, right-handers Jordan Lyles and Yu Darvish get the ball when the series resumes Wednesday night. Lyles (0-0, 0.00 ERA) made his Pittsburgh debut Thursday against Cincinnati and pitched five innings in the Pirates’ 2-0 victory. Darvish (0-1, 8.10 ERA) struggled in his first two starts of the year, issuing 11 walks in just 6 2/3 innings.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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