Polanco homers twice to power Pirates past Cubs 6-1

CHICAGO — Gregory Polanco and the Pittsburgh Pirates wasted no time in bouncing back from a rout to make an early statement in the National League Central.

Polanco homered twice to help back a third straight solid start by Trevor Williams, and Pittsburgh pulled away from the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Thursday.

Francisco Cervelli lined a three-run shot in the seventh off Cubs reliever Justin Wilson as Pittsburgh scored four times in the inning to break open a tight game.

Adam Frazier also went deep for Pittsburgh, which rebounded from a 13-5 loss on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field to improve to 9-3 on the season.

Williams (3-0) was a little bit better than Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks (0-1) in what began as a pitchers’ duel.

The Pirates’ right-hander allowed one run and four hits through six innings, while striking out five and walking one.

The 25-year-old Williams, who entered 2018 at 8-10 for his career — and was 7-9 last season — is emerging as a key part of the Pirates’ rotation.

“Trevor was good, very efficient from a perspective of finding outs and working out of a couple of jams,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I thought he attacked and got better as the game went on, especially through the middle.”

Williams helped the Pirates take two of three from division rival Chicago in the teams’ first series this season.

Michael Feliz, George Kontos and Felipe Vazquez each pitched a scoreless inning in relief.

“They’re (Chicago) the team to beat in the Central,” Williams said, “and it’s good for us to take two out of three today, especially early in the season.”

Kyle Schwarber homered, doubled and singled for three of the Cubs’ seven hits. Chicago’s Ian Happ had his first two-hit game this season.

Hendricks allowed two runs and five hits and struck out seven through six innings, and rebounded after allowing four runs in five innings in a no-decision at Milwaukee last Friday.

“Kyle hung in there pretty good and he didn’t have his best stuff,” manager Joe Maddon said.

“It was just one of those … a couple of bad pitches and didn’t get away with it,” said Hendricks, who allowed solo shots by Polanco and Frazier, “but overall the fastball command has to get better.”

Javier Baez went 0-for-4 after homering twice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Chicago’s high-energy infielder became the first Cub with consecutive multi-homer games since Alfonso Soriano in May 2008.

Polanco’s third career multi-homer game lifted his season total to a team-leading five.

Polanco hit his fourth homer into the bleachers in right-center in the first to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

Schwarber led off the bottom of the fourth with a drive that landed halfway up the right-field bleachers and tied it at 1. He hit his third home run into a steady, chilly wind off Lake Michigan.

Frazier put the Pirates back in front 2-1 in the fifth with a solo shot into the first row of the left-center bleachers. It was the first homer for the Pirates’ leadoff hitter.

Polanco’s second homer of the game, a shot to left-center off Wilson with one out in the seventh made it 3-1. After Wilson walked Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson, Cervelli smacked his second homer this season.