Baez homers twice in Cubs' home-opening loss

by - Senior Writer -
Cubs second baseman Javier Baez jacked two impressive home runs in Chicago's home opener. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Cubs second baseman Javier Baez jacked two impressive home runs in Chicago's home opener. (Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Unfortunately for the bleacher creatures at Wrigley Field, who were forced to wait an extra day for the Chicago Cubs' 2018 home opener, the North Siders did not live up to the hype and anticipation as they played in front of the home crowd for the first time this spring. More specifically, starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood did not live up the billing.

Falling 8-5, the Cubs wasted a two-homer outing by second baseman Javier Baez, as the Pirates used two separate three-run innings to win fairly comfortably. As for Chatwood, his second start as a Cub did not go so well, with the right-hander giving up nine hits and five runs in five innings pitched and earning the loss to fall to 0-2 early on in his Chicago stint.

The Cubs were the first to score a run, though, with left fielder Kyle Schwarber picking up his fourth RBI of the season on a single to left-center in the opening frame that scored third baseman Kris Bryant in the bottom of the first. Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer answered with an RBI single of his own in the next inning, but, in the bottom half of the second, Baez put the Cubs back on top by a score of 2-1 with perhaps the most impressive home run of his career.

Making quite the mark with his first long ball of the year, Baez drilled a pitch from Pirates hurler Ivan Nova to the top of the left-field bleachers, nearly hitting the video board. In true Baez form, he added some flare to the moonshot with a Sammy Sosa-esque hop out of the batter's box while eyeballing his masterpiece.

The Buccos regained the momentum in the third inning, using back-to-back doubles from Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson to go up 4-2. Dickerson's two-run double was one of three hits for him on the afternoon, as he led the Pirates with a 3-4 performance at the dish. Center field Starling Marte was also a key performer for Pittsburgh, particularly by way of his solo shot in the fourth that gave the Pirates a commanding 5-2 lead.

Following Chatwood's exit, reliever Mike Montgomery entered the game to pitch for the Cubs. Continuing with his wishy-washy start to the year, he dominated in a three up, three down sixth inning but was pummeled in the seventh. Giving up a costly three-run jack to catcher Francisco Cervelli, which proved to be the winning hit, Montgomery placed Chicago into a daunting 8-2 hole.

Baez cut into the Pirates' lead with another round-tripper in the bottom of the seventh, his second of the game off of Nova. Baez served as Nova's only true impediment on the day, as the Pittsburgh ace pitched seven quality innings with six strikeouts to his name, receiving the win to become 1-1.

Chicago did not give in, however, using small ball to tack on two more runs in the eighth to make it 8-5 in favor of the Pirates. Putting together a two-out rally, the Cubs accrued two singles and a walk to load the bases before right fielder Jason Heyward came through with a clutch two-run single to center off of Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez. Vazguez redeemed himself in the ninth, outing the Cubs rather quickly to secure the 8-5 win for the Bucs and pick up his fourth save.

Despite the obvious morale boost offered by having Loyola Chicago's Sister Jean of March Madness fame throw out the first pitch, the Cubs could not overcome Chatwood's pitching struggles to win the home opener.

Chicago (5-5) will look to rebound against National League Central-leading Pittsburgh (8-2) tomorrow night in a battle of left-handed pitchers, as the Cubs' Jon Lester is set to face off aginst Steven Brault of the Pirates in a contest set to begin at 7:05 PM CST.

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