Cubs’ Hamels excels in return to NL
Cole Hamels had little trouble in his return to the National League, keeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in check over five innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 9-2 victory on Wednesday night.
Hamels (6-9), acquired in a trade with Texas last week, gave up one unearned run on three hits. The four-time All-Star struck out nine and walked two to pick up his first win for a National League team in more than three years.
Willson Contreras went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs for the Cubs. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist had three hits apiece while Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez each added two hits and an RBI for Chicago.
Reliever Brandon Kintzler worked 11/3 innings of scoreless relief on his 34th birthday a day after arriving in a trade from Washington.
The Cubs wasted little time jumping on Pittsburgh rookie Nick Kingham (5-6), touching him for four runs in the first inning to give Hamels plenty of breathing room. Kingham needed 51 pitches to get through the first and didn’t come out for the second.
Francisco Cervelli went 3 for 3 with an RBI for Pittsburgh and Starling Marte added two hits but the Pirates never threatened after falling into the early hole to lose for just the fifth time in their last 21 games.
Chicago brought in the 34-year-old Hamels to give its patchwork starting rotation a boost. The left-hander struggled at times for the Rangers this season and came in having won just twice since Memorial Day. His new teammates did their best to put him at ease, staking him to a four-run lead before he even took the mound.
The Cubs batted around in the first despite having the ball leave the infield just once. A pair of Pittsburgh errors helped, so did a wild pitch and a hit by pitch by Kingham, who is a leading candidate to lose his spot in the starting rotation after the Pirates traded for Chris Archer on Tuesday.
Steven Brault replaced Kingham in the second and fared no better, walking in a pair of runs as the Cubs quickly went up by five and cruised.
Hamels never retired Pittsburgh in order and needed 95 pitches to record 15 outs but had little trouble earning his 153rd career win and first for a National League team since pitching a complete-game shutout against the Cubs on July 25, 2015 while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Home plate umpire Chris Guccione exited in the top of the third inning after a foul ball off the bat of Heyward smacked Guccione’s mask. He was steadied in the moment by Pittsburgh catcher Cervelli and attempted to stay in the game before going to be evaluated by medical staff. Guccione did not return, with Ed Hickox taking his place behind the plate.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) has not been cleared to return to baseball activities but manager Joe Maddon said he does not anticipate Bryant needing much time to be game-ready once he’s given the go-ahead by trainers. ... RHP Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) will have another bullpen session on Saturday.
Pirates: OF Corey Dickerson (strained left hamstring) is on track to come off the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. ... 1B Josh Bell (strained left oblique) is doing core work but remains out indefinitely. .. IF Jung Ho Kang developed a recurrence of left wrist discomfort while working out at the team’s minor-league complex in Bradenton, Florida. The team will meet with Kang’s representatives before determining the appropriate steps.
Pirates: Archer will make his 178th career start — and first for someone other than Tampa Bay — on Friday when the Pirates begin a three-game set with St. Louis.