Cubs hit 3 homers in support of Hammel, top Pirates 9-4
CHICAGO (AP) - So much for that one-day slide for the Chicago Cubs.
Three home runs and another strong starting pitching performance returned the smiles to Wrigley Field.
Addison Russell, David Ross and Kris Bryant went deep, leading Jason Hammel and the Cubs to a 9-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.
Chicago improved to a major league-best 26-8 after it was swept by San Diego in a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday for its first losing streak of the season.
"It's nice to have a little fun today after the panic set in," a smiling Ross said. "We lost two in a row. Now everyone can relax, we finally won one."
Russell and Ross each hit a three-run shot, and Bryant connected for a two-run drive. That was more than enough for Hammel (5-0), who struck out a season-best eight over 6 2/3 innings, giving up one earned run and eight hits.
It marked the 42nd straight regular-season game a Cubs starter went at least five innings, the team's longest such streak since 1910.
"It sets up the whole game," manager Joe Maddon said.
Francisco Liriano (3-2) surrendered all three Cubs homers in 4 2/3 innings. Andrew McCutchen had three hits, including a two-run homer in the ninth, but the Pirates fell eight games behind the Cubs in the NL Central.
Hammel is the last Cubs starter who failed to go five innings — on Sept. 26 when he lasted four in a 4-0 loss to the Pirates. Hammel felt his fastball command was key as he lowered his ERA to 1.77.
The Cubs had gone 17 innings without scoring until Russell hit a slider into the left-field bleachers in the fourth.
"It was huge," Hammel said. "As you can see, it kind of completely threw Liriano off."
Bryant and Ross homered in the fifth, chasing Liriano. The Pirates had won all but two of his previous 23 starts, and Liriano was 4-1 in his last five starts at Wrigley Field.
"You can't make that many mistakes," Liriano said.
Pittsburgh scored two in the sixth on Ross' throwing error and Francisco Cervelli's infield single.
McCutchen homered to left off Trevor Cahill, extending his hitting streak to seven games. But the Pirates have been outscored 29-9 while going 0-4 against the Cubs.
Combine that with the Cubs' wild-card win last season, and this rivalry is suddenly one-sided.
"It seems like they're giving a lot of people trouble besides us," McCutchen said. "They're a good ballclub and we'll get opportunities, but we've got to key on them. We've got to jump on them."
Pirates: LHP Cory Luebke (hamstring) allowed one run and one hit while getting four outs in consecutive rehab appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis this week.
Cubs: Maddon said C Miguel Montero (back) would be activated off the disabled list "any day now." . LHP Zac Rosscup, on the 60-day DL, had shoulder surgery and won't throw for three months. . RHP Andury Acevedo, on the 40-man roster, tore his left ACL at Double-A Tennessee and is out for the season.
It was Ross' first three-hit game in nearly two years and his first three-RBI game since September 2012. The 39-year-old catcher is one home run shy of 100, leading his teammates to serenade him by raising their index fingers after his long ball.
Ross has said he will retire after this season. But what if he continues to hit like this?
"Let's talk about something else," Ross said, smiling.
Jorge Soler went 1 for 3 with a walk and scored a run after Maddon and baseball operations chief Theo Epstein defended the 24-year-old Cuban outfielder.
Soler went 1 for 8 with four strikeouts in Wednesday's doubleheader, dropping his average to .175.
"I have a lot of faith in this kid," Maddon said.
Soler was an unexpected star in last year's postseason, hitting .474 with three homers.
Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (6-0, 1.13 ERA) seeks to win his 18th straight decision on Saturday. Arrieta, who last took a loss on July 25, has lasted only five innings in two of his past three starts since his no-hitter against Cincinnati. LHP Jeff Locke (1-2, 4.68 ERA) starts for the Pirates.