CHICAGO (AP) — A deflected ball turned into an inning-ending double play. Then a borderline call on a 3-2 pitch went against Jeff Locke and Pittsburgh.
That is how it has gone for the Pirates against the Chicago Cubs this year.
Locke served up homers by Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, and Pittsburgh was shut down by Jake Arrieta in an 8-2 loss on Saturday. The Pirates have been outscored 37-11 while losing their first five games of the season against the major league-leading Cubs.
“The season is still young,” Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “Last year this division was crazy and I don’t think this year will be any different.”
So far, it’s no contest. The 27-8 record for the Cubs is baseball’s best start since the 1984 Detroit Tigers won 30 of their first 35 games.
“We’re just plugging away right now and understanding that we’ve got to get up for every ballgame,” said Jason Heyward, who had three hits for Chicago.
Cervelli hit a two-run single for Pittsburgh in the fourth, but the Pirates lost out on an opportunity for more when Josh Harrison’s liner went off Arrieta’s left foot and right to Ben Zobrist at second for a crucial double play with runners on the corners.
“There were tipping points throughout the game,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “The fourth inning was one.”
The Cubs then grabbed the lead for good in the bottom half. Heyward singled on a dribbler to second and Kris Bryant walked on a close call on a full-count pitch before Rizzo connected for his 11th homer.
“I got into a little bit of rhythm for a little a while but the Rizzo home run kind of knocked that off course,” Locke said.
Likely upset by the call on Bryant, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage was thrown out by plate umpire Brian Knight on a visit to the mound later in the inning.
Locke (1-3) also surrendered Russell’s fourth homer with one out in the sixth and then hit Miguel Montero before he was replaced by Jared Hughes. Locke was charged with six runs and six hits.
“I thought Jeff was really strong through three then a couple of mistakes, a couple of elevated pitches and they took advantage of them,” Hurdle said.
Arrieta (7-0) struck out 11 while pitching eight innings of three-hit ball, leaving with a major league-best 1.29 ERA. He improved to 18-0 with a microscopic 0.75 ERA in 20 regular-season starts since Aug. 1.
“It’s unusual,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said with a chuckle. “It’s very unusual what he is doing.”
Rizzo also singled in Heyward in the eighth. Ben Zobrist reached four times for Chicago, and Addison Russell hit a two-run homer.
Bouncing back from a so-so start for his lofty standards, Arrieta moved to 8-1 in 11 career regular-season starts against the Pirates. He also struck out 11 in a five-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in last year’s wild-card game.
“It’s just not against us, it’s everybody,” Cervelli said. “I think we got him in that inning, we just got that ground-ball double play. He’s good. He’s confident, he knows what he is doing.”
Zobrist went 2 for 3 with two walks and is batting .536 (15 for 28) on the Cubs’ 10-game homestand. Dexter Fowler had two hits and drove in a run.