PITTSBURGH — Cubs reliever David Robertson had been waiting a long time for his first career at-bat. And the Cubs’ bats were so hot in a 14-5 victory Wednesday against the Pirates that they gifted it to him.
“It was fun to get in the box,” the veteran right-hander said with a chuckle. “I just couldn’t hit the ball. It was so slow.”
The ball was coming in at 40-55 mph because Robertson was facing Pirates infielder Diego Castillo in the ninth inning. And that fact summed up how lopsided the game ended up, as the Cubs took advantage of another quality start from Keegan Thompson and poured it on early.
“It felt like it was the first time I’ve laughed in the dugout in a while, so that definitely felt good,” manager David Ross said. “These guys continue to come in, work hard, and you want to see them succeed and us succeed.”
The Cubs have been on the other side of that equation plenty this season with first baseman Frank Schwindel racking up three relief appearances and middle infielder Andrelton Simmons logging another.
On Wednesday, the Cubs’ clubhouse was filled with smiles and pulsing with music after the game. After giving Robertson grief, of course, for his whiffing.
“That was tough,” Thompson said. “He’s been begging for an at-bat the whole year. . . . At least he swung, but you’ve got to put the ball in play.”
Thompson played a large role in setting up the blowout, holding the Pirates to one run in six innings.
As the Cubs limp through a spike in injuries to their rotation, Thompson is making a habit of curbing losing streaks. Last week, his six scoreless innings against the Braves snapped the Cubs’ season-high 10-game skid. They came into this game losers of three in a row, all by six runs or more.
This time, they scored seven runs in one inning. Second baseman Jonathan Villar led off the second with a double, and Nico Hoerner followed with a single. Then Pirates starter Jerad Eickhoff helped them out with back-to-back hit batters to load the bases and push a run across the plate.
It was back to the top of the order, and Rafael Ortega (double), Patrick Wisdom (single) and Ian Happ (home run) each drove in two runs.
“It just gives you some confidence,” Ross said. “It was really good just continuing to turn over the lineup, guys staying in the big part of the field. We’ve had a lot of guys in scoring position and haven’t been getting the job done. We did a nice job of that today.”
As the game progressed, the Cubs added on with a two-run home run from Wisdom, his second homer in as many games, and a sacrifice fly by Hoerner.
Robertson pitched a quick eighth inning, retiring the side in order. And the Pirates moved Castillo to the mound for the ninth.
Ross had told Robertson that if a position player got in and the DH came up, he could have the pitcher bat for the DH.
“I just didn’t think it was actually going to happen,” Robertson said.
The Cubs would have to bat almost all the way through the order to get to the DH spot. They did, with a ninth inning that featured Alfonso Rivas’ first career grand slam. So Robertson picked up Christopher Morel’s bat and Yan Gomes’ helmet and checked off a career first.
“It’s just a fun atmosphere,” Robertson said. “I get ribbed in the dugout and then I get the lineup card for my first at-bat and told how bad I stink after the game. We were having a great time in there, and it’s nice to have days like that.”