Cubs drop Opener to Pirates 5-3

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Pittsburgh Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes (13) watches his two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Thursday, April 1, 2021, on opening day at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

CHICAGO (AP) — Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a two-run homer and Pittsburgh’s relievers dominated in a two-hitter, helping the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Thursday on a chilly opening day.

The gametime temperature at Wrigley Field was 36 degrees, and the flags at the iconic ballpark rippled in the breeze for much of the sunny afternoon. A crowd of 10,343 dressed in winter jackets, hooded sweatshirts and hats for the return of fans to Wrigley after they were kept out last summer because of the pandemic.

Pittsburgh handled the cool conditions just a little bit better than Chicago, led by its largely anonymous bullpen. Six relievers combined for six innings of one-run ball — Duane Underwood Jr., Clay Holmes, Sam Howard (1-0), David Bednar and Chris Stratton each worked an inning before Richard Rodríguez finished for the save.

Anthony Rizzo, Joc Pederson and Willson Contreras each hit a sacrifice fly for Chicago, but that was it for the reigning NL Central champions. Rizzo doubled in the first against Chad Kuhl and Eric Sogard added another double in the eighth for the team’s only hits.

Pederson walked with one out in the ninth and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Rodríguez struck out Javier Báez and Jason Heyward to end the game.

It was an ugly opener for a Cubs team looking for a fast start to a season shadowed by uncertainty. Rizzo, Báez and Kris Bryant — three key sluggers from the franchise’s historic 2016 World Series championship — are eligible for free agency after this year.

Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks lasted just three innings in his second straight opening-day start. He issued three walks while allowing three runs and four hits after he walked eight in 81 1/3 innings last season.

Hendricks (0-1) wasn’t the only one with control problems. The Cubs finished with 11 walks in the 4-hour game.

Hayes, one of the preseason favorites for NL Rookie of the Year, got Pittsburgh off to a fast start. After Adam Frazier reached on a leadoff walk in the first, the son of former big league infielder Charlie Hayes hit a drive to left-center for his sixth career homer.

Frazier added an RBI single in the second and a run-scoring double in the seventh, giving Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead.

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