Schwarber, Cubs beat Pirates 10-0 in Wrigley opener

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) throws the ball against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)


AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO — First, Brad Brach escaped a tough situation. Then Brandon Kintzler, Randy Rosario and Pedro Strop finished the job.

Chicago’s beleaguered bullpen stepped up after Jon Lester departed with left hamstring tightness, leading the Cubs over the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-0 in their home opener on Monday.

“That will build their confidence. They need that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The group needs that. They were all really good.”

Chicago’s bullpen had an 8.37 ERA on an opening 2-7 trip, amplifying concerns about pitching depth with relievers Brandon Morrow, Xavier Cede’o and Tony Barnette sidelined by injuries. But the bullpen threw four scoreless innings Sunday at Milwaukee, and the form carried over into the matchup with the Pirates.

Brach (1-0) came in after Lester was removed with two on and no outs in the third. He got Starling MartÈ to bounce into a double play, then struck out Francisco Cervelli.

Brach worked the fourth, and Kintzler and Rosario each pitched two innings. Strop closed it out on a picturesque day at Wrigley Field.

“It’s just one of those things where kind of the good pitching can be contagious but at the same time the bad pitching can be contagious,” Brach said. “I think now we’re ready to get on a little bit of a roll and hopefully seven innings can go a long way to the next game.”

Lester got hurt when he scored from second on Ben Zobrist’s two-run single in Chicago’s six-run second. The veteran left-hander is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday.

“I didn’t feel a pop or any tingling or any numbness or anything like that,” Lester said. “Just kind of felt like something was in there grabbing me a little bit. So I guess that’s the positive look at it. Like I said, tomorrow will tell us more.”

Pittsburgh had won four in a row, but the Pirates made four errors, including three by shortstop Kevin Newman in the second.

“We need to play better defense,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There were a couple of different sequences there, maybe, with execution of pitches didn’t help and defensively we had outs to put away and we didn’t do it, and the inning got away from us.”

Newman’s first error allowed Daniel Descalso to reach after Jameson Taillon (0-2) retired the first two batters. He committed two more errors on a Kyle Schwarber grounder, and Anthony Rizzo scampered home to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead.

In between the fielding trouble for Newman, Lester, Zobrist, Rizzo and Javier B’ez each came up with big hits. Rizzo’s run-scoring single went off Taillon’s head, but he stayed in the game.

“I’m fine. I’m unlucky I got hit and lucky I seem to be OK coming out of it,” said Taillon, who was charged with six unearned runs and four hits in two innings.

Newman said it was a humbling experience.

“A couple of days ago was the greatest day I’ve ever had on the field. Today was quite the opposite,” he said.