CHICAGO — From the pregame news conference to the first-inning standing ovation to getting his first hit, Gregory Polanco‘s first day in the major leagues was special.
The only downer was that his Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-3 on Tuesday night as Anthony Rizzo stole the spotlight from Polanco by homering, doubling twice and driving in three runs.
"It was a lot of fun," Polanco said with a smile. "It was exciting. I was a little nervous at first but then I relaxed and had fun."
Polanco went 1 for 5 after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, where the right fielder was leading the International League with a .347 batting average and 49 RBI in 62 games. He was universally considered Pittsburgh’s top prospect coming into the season.
He popped out in his first at-bat after an ovation from the crowd of 31,567, much more than the Pirates usually draw on a Tuesday. Polanco then singled his second time up against left-hander Travis Wood for his first hit.
"I really wanted to get a hit tonight," Polanco said. "After I got that first hit, I felt a lot better even though I didn’t get any more."
Polanco batted second and was the only left-handed hitter in the Pirates’ lineup against Wood.
"I’m not going to get in front of myself and predict the future, but it was exciting to watch him play," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "There was a really great atmosphere in the ballpark. It was fun. I liked what I saw and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of him."
Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the first inning off lefty Francisco Liriano, who came out in the fourth with discomfort on his right side.
Rizzo also doubled and scored in the fourth and hit an RBI double in the seventh, a drive to deep right-center that struck Polanco’s left wrist as the touted rookie tried to make the catch.
Liriano allowed two runs in three-plus innings. He bent over and held his back after throwing a pitch to Rizzo, then left the mound after a few warmup pitches.
After leading the Pirates with 16 wins last season, Liriano has struggled this year. He is 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 14 starts.
Liriano will almost certainly miss his scheduled start Sunday in Miami and could land on the disabled list. Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole (right shoulder fatigue) went on the DL on Sunday and second baseman Neil Walker (appendectomy) followed him Tuesday.
"I’m not a doctor, but I think we better have a Plan B ready," Hurdle said.
Rizzo’s shot off Liriano was his fifth home run against left-handers in 61 at-bats this season and he is batting .344 against them. Last year, Rizzo hit .189 with seven homers against southpaws in 189 at-bats.
"I feel more comfortable against them now and it’s the best I’ve ever hit left-handers at any level," Rizzo said. "I don’t know if I’ll ever figure lefties out — or right-handers, either — but I do feel confident against them."
Rizzo has five homers in his last 10 games, raising his season total to 13.
Pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena’s two-run double off Casey Sadler (0-1) broke a 3-all tie in the sixth and put Chicago ahead for good.
Wood (6-5) allowed three runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer for the Pirates, his ninth of the season and fifth in nine June games.
Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez got the night off. He is 1 for 18 against Wood. … The Cubs released RHP Jose Veras, one week after designating him for assignment. He was 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in 12 relief appearances while going 0 for 2 on save chances. … Pirates rookie RHP Brandon Cumpton (1-2, 6.51 ERA) is scheduled to start Wednesday night against RHP Jason Hammel (6-3, 2.53).