PITTSBURGH — There’s nowhere to go but up. That’s one way to look at the Cubs’ offense one week into the season. It’s no secret that it’s off to a slow start, and after a tough three-game series against the Brewers, something had to give.
Through six games, the Cubs were hitting .124 as a team with only 21 hits. But they had 11 hits Thursday in a 4-2 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park.
After nearly being no-hit by the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff on Wednesday, the Cubs felt like they were one swing away from having a game where things fell their way.
“We felt really good on the plane last night,” manager David Ross said. “Confidence and a little bit of momentum coming off our at-bats later in the game yesterday. Quality at-bats and getting guys on. We weren’t able to finish the job yesterday, but it definitely felt good. We carried that into today, really good approaches from everybody.”
The biggest story for the Cubs this year is the unknown future of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo. Also important is how their performance will affect the offense. Ross has said since spring training began that if his offensive superstars put up big numbers, the team’s success would follow.
Sure enough, Bryant, Baez and Rizzo homered, showing what the offense is capable of when its stars are leading the way.
“I think we stayed together, especially the last two games where we got three hits,” Baez said about the lineup’s slow start. “We have fun even when we lose a game. We’re not trying to lose games, but we’re giving everything we have.”
Bryant played the role of catalyst in the victory, launching a 418-foot solo shot in the first inning. The quality of Bryant’s at-bats has looked much closer to his 2016 MVP form.
The rest of the offense followed his lead as hits slowly started to fall, but the Cubs had just one run to show for it and trailed 2-1 into the sixth. After Bryant singled, Baez took a ball six inches off the ground and drilled it into the left-field seats to retake the lead.
“When I react to pitches out of the zone, I swing the bat a lot,” Baez said. “Once I see the ball good, if I keep my approach and my plan, those bad pitches, I can get to them pretty good.”
That left only Rizzo to get in on the action, and he hit his first home run of the season to provide some needed insurance. Bryant, Baez and Rizzo went 6-for-11 with four runs scored and a walk. Every Cubs hitter from Nos. 1 through 7 in the order had at least one hit.
“Doesn’t really matter who it comes from, but you expect those to be three of the guys that contribute at a pretty high clip,” said Jake Arrieta, who earned his second win of the season. “Their skill levels are high, and when the situation calls for it, guys like that step up to the plate and produce. So no surprise, but happy as hell that those three guys were a big part of our success today.”