Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks walked the first batter of the season in what would become a familiar trend for the pitching staff on opening day.
Eight Cubs pitchers combined to walk 11 hitters in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 10,343 fans at Wrigley Field. The 11 walks were the most in a game for the Cubs since July 23, 2014 (also 11). Right-hander Alec Mills was the lone reliever to not issue a free pass.
Hendricks uncharacteristically struggled with his command, lasting only three innings and 63 pitches. His three walks were his most in a start in exactly two years (April 1, 2019).
The Cubs found themselves trailing two batters into the game.
Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes followed Adam Frazier’s game-opening walk with a two-run homer off Hendricks. The Cubs answered in the bottom half of the inning. Willson Contreras reached on a fielder’s choice after Ian Happ led off with a four-pitch walk and advanced to third base on an Anthony Rizzo hit to right field that he turned into a hustle double. A Kris Bryant walk loaded the bases, positioning the Cubs to knock Pirates starter Chad Kuhl out of the game early. Joc Pederson’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Contreras to cut the Pirates’ lead to 2-1. Javier Baez flew out to strand two runners on base.
Contreras was nearly single-handedly responsible for the Cubs’ second run. A fielding error allowed him to get on base to open the bottom of the third. He subsequently stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error on the play. He scored on Rizzo’s fly ball to center to make it 3-2 Pirates.
Eric Sogard led off the bottom of the eighth with a double, ending a stretch of 15 consecutive batters retired by the Pirates. Another sacrifice fly, this time from Contreras, brought the Cubs within two runs.