The Cubs opened the series against the Pirates with a 6-3 win at Wrigley Field.
Starting pitcher Yu Darvish bounced back from a loss in his first outing of the season to dominate on the mound Friday. The Cubs offense chipped in a combination of power hitting and an affinity for taking advantage of free passes from Pittsburgh.
They racked up enough insurance runs for it to not matter when closer Craig Kimbrel gave up back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning.
Here are takeaways from the game:
Darvish’s start had been pushed back a day due to rain in Cincinnati Thursday. But that didn’t throw Darvish, who pitched six shutout innings.
After his first start of the season, he said, “I’m almost there.”
He got there on Friday.
Darvish struck out seven – including three in a row in the fourth inning -- and allowed just two hits. But even those two hits came on good pitches. Colin Moran singled on a sinker out of the zone in the second inning. Cole Tucker singled on a cutter over the edge of the plate in the fifth.
Who wore it best?
Anthony Rizzo has been hit by a pitch six times already this season, leading the league. But on Friday, that sixth hit-by-pitch played a crucial role in the Cubs’ first run.
Kris Bryant had reached base on a walk, and Rizzo wore a pitch off his left elbow to move Bryant to second.
Up next was Javier Báez, who dropped a sneaky bunt back at Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams. The pitcher stepped off the mound to field the ball but fired an errant throw past first base. Bryant scored standing up. The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
Welcome home, Kipnis
Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis hit his first home run as a Cub in the fourth inning Friday.
The Northbrook native spent the first nine seasons of his MLB career in Cleveland, before signing with the Cubs in February as a free agent.
The homecoming, in a season with empty stands and a 60-game schedule, wasn’t quite what he pictured. But on Friday, he hit a milestone in his Cubs tenure.
Kipnis turned on an inside pitch and launched it 418 feet, at least halfway up the right field bleachers.
A taste of their own medicine
The Cubs bullpen entered play Friday as the most walk-happy group of relievers in the league (9.64 walks per nine innings). But against the Pirates, the roles were flipped.
In the fifth inning, Pittsburgh brought in reliever Nik Turley for Williams. Left-handed Turley walked Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras to load the bases – Williams had walked Bryant earlier in the inning. Then, Jason Heyward stepped up to the left side of the plate with two outs.
All Heyward had to do was poke a hard ground ball into right field, and two runs scored. The Cubs took a comfortable 4-0 lead.
After further review
A replay review helped nullify a leadoff walk for the Cubs.
Darvish walked the first batter he faced, Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier.
Then, Darvish tried to pick off Frazier at first, but he was called safe after diving back to the bag. The replay, on the other hand, showed first baseman Anthony Rizzo putting down the tag before Frazier touched the base.
The reversal marked the Cubs’ first successful challenge of the season. They also challenged a steal in the first game of their series at Cincinnati. But after a ninth-inning review, the call was upheld and Josh VanMeter was safe at second base.