Cubs Hang on for 1st Victory of Season
PITTSBURGH — Junior Lake wore the wrong gray jersey for one inning Thursday, but the Cubs won’t have an identity issue Friday when they play the Phillies in their home opener at Wrigley Field.
“It looks like we’ll be one-run warriors, as of right now,” Jason Hammel said Thursday after preserving most of the bullpen with 62/3 innings of two-hit ball as the Cubs averted a three-game sweep with a 3-2 victory over the Pirates at soggy PNC Park.
They responded early with three runs in the first three innings to support Hammel, who knew that closer Jose Veras and left-hander Wesley Wright weren’t available because of their recent workload.
“I didn’t think it would be such a relief,” manager Rick Renteria said after his first major league triumph. “But it’s quite a relief.”
The victory doused some of the doom that was forecast after the first two losses and the impending weekend arrival of the Phillies with manager Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs Hall of Famer who remains a very popular figure in Chicago.
The Cubs can thank the likes of Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Olt and Hammel for engendering some enthusiasm.
Lake also provided some spontaneous relief when he sported the Cubs’ road jersey that read CHICAGO across the top while his teammates wore their new ones that read CUBS across the front.
Lake said he had two gray jerseys hanging in his locker and didn’t realize he wore the wrong one until reliever Justin Grimm told him while he was playing catch in left field before the bottom of the first inning.
“(Grimm) said, ‘Hey, you have the wrong jersey,'” Lake recalled. “I looked and said, ‘(bleep).'”
Lake absorbed some good-natured ribbing in the dugout after changing during the second inning, but the Cubs had more to smile about as Bonifacio started rallies in the first and third and scored both times.
Olt, 25, who will be playing at Wrigley Field for the first time this weekend, showed his power with an opposite field home run into the right field seats off left-hander Wandy Rodriguez to start the second.
“That shows you the kind of thump he has in his stick,” Renteria said.
Anthony Rizzo took a step forward against left-handers and with runners in scoring position with a two-out RBI single off Rodriguez in the first.
The next player the Cubs hope they can get untracked is Starlin Castro, who moved to the second spot in the batting order and produced a single that led to their third run in the third.
That single is Castro’s lone hit in 13 at-bats.
“It’s not because he’s not on pitches,” said Renteria, who allowed Castro to swing on a 3-0 count in Wednesday’s loss. “It’s because he’s anxious more than anything. He has taken some pretty good hacks on fastballs.”