PITTSBURGH (AP) Jason Heyward is getting tired of talking about his rebuilt swing. Considering what the Chicago Cubs center fielder is doing at the plate these days, the conversation will soon flip from his new-look swing to the results.
Heyward hit his third home run in four days, a sizzling line drive to right-center off Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl in the first inning to set the tone in a lopsided 14-3 victory for the suddenly hot Cubs on Monday night. Heyward added an RBI on a groundout during Chicago’s five-run second inning as the defending World Series champions won for the fifth time in six games.
A year after he hit just .230 while managing just seven home runs and 49 RBIs, Heyward is at .294 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 18 games so far in 2017.
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”I’ve been there before,” Heyward said. ”Had a down year before, didn’t go exactly how I wanted. Had to put some work in and come back. It’s great to see. It’s not over. I’m not looking at it that way.”
Addison Russell had a career-high four hits for the Cubs, who set a season-high total for runs and tied their season-high total with 17 hits. A little over two years after going 0-5 in his major league debut at PNC Park, Russell singled four times while spraying the ball to all fields.
”I just put it in play and see where it goes,” Russell said. ”It’s working out. Seems like a pretty easy approach.”
Ben Zobrist added three RBIs for Chicago. Anthony Rizzo had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero all had two hits apiece. The Cubs are starting to get it going after a sluggish start, averaging 8.8 runs during their recent surge to first in the NL Central. It has helped take some of the pressure off a pitching staff that is struggling to get any sort of consistency from its starters.
”Some pieces are changed around but all in all if I’m producing, have Schwarbs here, him settled in for a whole year, there’s a lot of good things that can come from it,” Heyward said.
Chicago scored four runs with two outs in the first inning off Chad Kuhl (1-2) and added five more in the second to give Brett Anderson (2-0) all the breathing room he would need.
Anderson struggled at times with his command, walking six in six innings while striking out three and allowed three runs, one earned. Though Chicago manager Joe Maddon said he was ”encouraged” by what he saw from Anderson, Anderson didn’t exactly agree.
”I’d like to have a start where I don’t have to battle, to grind, do all the things of that nature,” Anderson said.
Rookie Jose Osuna had three of Pittsburgh’s seven hits and drove in a run. Kuhl lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up nine runs as his ERA ballooned from 2.60 to 6.63 in less than an hour. Kuhl, who pitched well while never allowing more than two runs during his first three starts, ran into trouble quickly. Heyward’s blast came in the middle of a two-out rally and in the second the Cubs kept sending the ball to right field, where Osuna is learning on the job as part of the ripple effect of All-Star centerfielder Starling Marte’s 80-game drug suspension.
”You have to look at tonight as one of those things that kind of happens in baseball,” Kuhl said. ”You can’t be a slave to the numbers, the ERA and stuff like that.”
Pittsburgh reliever Dovydas Neverauskas allowed a run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings in his major-league debut. The Pirates said Neverauskas is the first player born and raised in Lithuania to play in the majors.
Neverauskas, who arrived at the ballpark in the sixth inning and was on the mound two innings later, called it ”awesome” and understands what his achievement could mean back home.
”Just better opportunities and to see that baseball can be played in Lithuania, someone can follow in my footstep,” he said.
Chicago: Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio is taking a leave of absence to deal with a personal matter and is expected to miss the rest of the road trip. Bullpen coach Lester Strode will fill in for Bosio, with Henry Blanco taking over for Strode in the bullpen.
Pirates: Pittsburgh placed utility player Adam Frazier on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Cubs: Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19) makes his second start of the season against the Pirates on Tuesday. He gave up three runs in a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on April 14.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole makes his 99th career start on Tuesday. Cole is 9-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 starts against the Cubs, including a win on April 14.
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