How it happened: Anthony Rizzo led a 14-hit attack with four of his own -- all to left or center -- including one to keep the fifth inning alive ahead of back-to-back home runs by Mike Olt and Junior Lake. That broke a 1-1 tie to put the Cubs up 4-1. They added to the lead with three more in the sixth on an RBI double by Rizzo, an Olt single and a fielder’s choice by Lake, which was reviewed and overturned in favor of the Cubs. Jason Hammel retired the first 12 batters he faced and gave up three hits on the night -- all solo home runs. Pedro Alvarez, Travis Snider and Russell Martin took him deep. Alvarez and Martin did it again in the 9th inning off of Pedro Strop. The Pirates had six hits, five of which were solo home runs. Emilio Bonifacio added two more hits to give him 19 in the first eight games of the season. The Cubs’ defense up the middle was on target, as well, with Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney making several difficult plays behind Hammel.
What it means: For the third game in a row the Cubs offense came alive. Good at-bat followed good at-bat. The Cubs were patient (four walks) when they had to be, then jumped on starter Wandy Rodriguez when he was forced to challenge them. The Cubs ran him from the game after five innings and 99 pitches. Rizzo, in particular, battled Rodriguez, even when behind in the count. He went to left center three different times in the game for hits, none bigger than with two outs and no one on down 0-2 in the count in the fifth. Three batters later the Cubs were up 4-1. Hammel threw the exact opposite of Edwin Jackson the night before: fast and effective. The latter two solo home runs came with the Cubs up 7-1, so no serious damage there. Hammel was great.
Bonifacio milestones: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bonifacio tied a Cubs mark (Randy Jackson) set in 1954 with his 19th hit over his first eight games. That’s the third most (Barry Larkin, Dante Bichette) of any major league player in the first eight games since 1961.
Rizzo’s night: He tied a career high with his four hits and, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, it’s the second time he’s had four base hits to left or center.