CHICAGO (AP) — It was breezy and chilly — but not nearly cold enough to contain Ke’Bryan Hayes.
The rookie slugger hit a two-run homer and Pittsburgh’s relievers dominated in a two-hitter, helping the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Thursday on opening day.
The gametime temperature at Wrigley Field was 36 degrees, and the flags at the iconic ballpark rippled in the breeze for much of the sunny afternoon. A crowd of 10,343 dressed in winter jackets, hooded sweatshirts and hats for the return of fans to Wrigley after they were kept out last summer because of the pandemic.
But the 24-year-old Hayes had more than enough power to leave the yard in the first inning, giving Pittsburgh a lift with a long two-run shot to left-center in front of his father, Charlie Hayes, a former big league infielder.
“I couldn’t have squared it up any better,” said Hayes, one of the preseason favorites for NL Rookie of the Year. “I was a little out front, but I squared it up pretty good so I knew that it was going to go out.”
Pittsburgh went 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position and left 15 runners on base. But it handled the cool conditions just a little bit better than Chicago, led by its largely anonymous bullpen.
Six relievers combined for six innings of one-run ball — Duane Underwood Jr., Clay Holmes, Sam Howard (1-0), David Bednar and Chris Stratton each worked an inning before Richard Rodríguez finished for the save.
“They did a nice job,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “They kind of all just fed off each other.”
Anthony Rizzo, Joc Pederson and Willson Contreras each hit a sacrifice fly for Chicago, but that was it for the reigning NL Central champions. Rizzo doubled in the first against Chad Kuhl and Eric Sogard added another double in the eighth for the team’s only hits.
Pederson walked with one out in the ninth and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Rodríguez struck out Javier Báez and Jason Heyward to end the game.
It was an ugly opener for a Cubs team looking for a fast start to a season shadowed by uncertainty. Rizzo, Báez and Kris Bryant — three key sluggers from the franchise’s historic 2016 World Series championship — are eligible for free agency after this year.
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks lasted just three innings in his second straight opening-day start. He issued three walks while allowing three runs and four hits after he walked eight in 81 1/3 innings last season.
“I was just in a bad position and fighting it,” Hendricks said. “We’re out there moving, so I was warm, but I really made it tough on the position players by just long innings, long counts, a lot of three-ball counts, a lot of walks. So they were standing out there getting cold. It was just bad all around. Set a bad tone. Just can’t let that happen again.”
Hendricks (0-1) wasn’t the only one with control problems. The Cubs finished with 11 walks and hit a batter during the 4-hour game.
“I think that’s the tough thing to watch — 12 free passes with the hit batter,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Especially (on) a cold day at Wrigley Field, the walks are gonna hurt you.”
Adam Frazier walked and scored on Hayes’ sixth career homer. Frazier added an RBI single in the second and a run-scoring double in the seventh, giving Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead.
Pirates right-hander Kyle Crick is away from the team for the birth of his child. Crick had a 1.59 ERA in seven relief appearances last year.
Pirates: RHP Cody Ponce was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a right forearm injury. … LHP Steven Brault opened the season on the 60-day IL because of discomfort in his throwing shoulder. He was shut down during spring training.
Cubs: C Austin Romine (right knee sprain) and RHPs Jonathan Holder (right shoulder strain) and Rowan Wick (left oblique strain) were placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday.
Jake Arrieta begins his second stint in Chicago when the series resumes on Saturday, and Tyler Anderson gets the ball for Pittsburgh. Arrieta played for Chicago for five years, winning a Cy Young Award and the World Series, before signing with Philadelphia in March 2018. The right-hander returned to the Cubs in February for a $6 million, one-year contract. Anderson is making his Pirates debut after the lefty signed with the team in free agency.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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