Pirates-Cubs Preview

Jason Hammel has appeared in 216 major league games, pitched for four different teams and started at every stadium in baseball but two.

One of those just happens to be his new home.

After an outstanding first start in a Chicago Cubs uniform against Pittsburgh, Hammel hopes his Wrigley Field debut is just as successful as he again faces the Pirates on Wednesday night.

Hammel wasn’t exactly a hot commodity after posting a 4.97 ERA for Baltimore last season, the second straight in which he missed more than a month on the disabled list.

But the Cubs (2-5) took a flyer on the right-hander, giving him a one-year, $6 million deal in February, and his first start made it look like that has the potential to be a pretty good investment. Hammel held Pittsburgh (5-2) to a run and two hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 3-2 win Thursday at PNC Park.

”He couldn’t have been any better,” manager Rick Renteria said. ”He got to 97 pitches, got us into the seventh inning to help save the bullpen. He worked through a pretty good lineup pretty easily.”

Now he’ll take the mound for the first time at Wrigley, baseball’s second-oldest venue and the only one he’s yet to pitch at aside from Marlins Park – the majors’ newest stadium.

Hammel will certainly hope to get off to a better start than Cubs starter Edwin Jackson did Tuesday. The Pirates batted around in the first and put up four runs, but blew that lead and another before Russell Martin’s eighth inning sacrifice fly proved to be the difference in a 7-6 win.

”We just kept playing,” manager Clint Hurdle said. ”It’s not about what’s not happening. It’s about what we’ve got to do next. That’s just the way we kept going. It was a fist fight off the mound for us most of the night. We executed extremely well in the first inning on offense and kept building innings.”

Wandy Rodriguez would love a bit more support than he got while opposing Hammel last week. The left-hander, starting for the first time since June 5, gave up a run apiece in the first three innings but didn’t allow a hit over his final three.

"The last three innings it was downhill, the changeup came into play, the curve was in the bottom of the zone," Hurdle told the team’s official website. "It was a tale of two pitchers; early on, he was up. He finished up very well. A very good outing. A big confidence- and momentum-builder for him."

Rodriguez has pitched once at Wrigley since joining the Pirates, giving up one earned run in six innings of a 7-6 win Sept. 15, 2012.

He’ll become the latest Pirate to try to solve Cubs leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio, who went 3 for 5 Tuesday and is now 14 for 21 with five stolen bases against Pittsburgh this season.

Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 3 last week against Hammel but had two hits and two walks Tuesday to increase his on-base percentage at Wrigley to .497.

”He played more of a supporting role, you can see he’s being pitched more difficult,” Hurdle said of the reigning NL MVP. ”A lot of pitches, sequences, balls aren’t there to hit but when they crossed the plate a couple times today he squared up and hit them really hard. He’s a real good player.”

Pirates leadoff hitter Starling Marte has looked pretty good at Wrigley as well. He’s hit safely in nine straight on the North Side (15 for 36) and has stolen 11 bases.