Cubs take series opener in Pittsburgh 4-2

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Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Dan Winkler, right, gets a hug from catcher Willson Contreras after getting the final out of a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jayy Baez hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth inning, and the Chicago Cubs’ struggling offense came to life in a 4-2 over Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo also homered as the Cubs pounded out a season-high 11 hits against Tyler Anderson (0-2) and four relievers. Baez, Rizzo, Bryant and Jake Marisnick had two hits each for Chicago, which raised its major-league worst team batting average from .143 to .157.

Jake Arrieta (2-0) survived a sometimes wobbly six innings to improve to 14-6 against the Pirates. Arrieta allowed two runs, seven hits and three walks and four strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel recorded the five outs for his second save.

Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco had two hits each for the Pirates but couldn’t stop Pittsburgh from dropping its sixth straight.

The Pirates welcomed 7,784 fans back to PNC Park, though the team is in a far different place than it was when it ended the 2019 regular season with a 3-1 loss to Cincinnati just hours after firing then-manager Clint Hurdle.

Pittsburgh is in the midst of an organizational-wide overhaul, one focused more on the future than the present. A year after finishing with the worst record in the majors, the Pirates are off to another sluggish start under second-year manager Derek Shelton.

The offense is in a funk and the pitching has been problematic at best. The Pirates entered with the second-highest ERA in the National League and while it dropped to 6.83 they continued to struggle keeping hitters in the ballpark.

Pittsburgh has allowed a major-league high 14 home runs, though the shots by Bryant and Baez were more a product of good hitting. Bryant sent a fastball low in the zone to the bushes behind the fence in center in the first. Baez scrapped an Anderson offering off the plate and flicked it into the short-porch in left field in the sixth to put the Cubs in front.

The Pirates left 10 runners on base in all, including three in the eighth when Kimbrel came on with one out. He struck out Dustin Fowler and Wilmer Difo to end the threat.

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