Major League Baseball

Cubs seek to bounce back from Pittsburgh pummeling

mlb2CUBS (45-40) AT PIRATES (40-43)

The Chicago Cubs (-1.5) are playing in PNC Park for the first time this season, and the Pittsburgh Pirates (+1.5) were hardly hospitable in the opener of a four-game series.

Pittsburgh collected 23 hits Monday in an 18-5 win that dropped the Cubs to 16-24 on the road, including 4-13 over their past 17 games away from Wrigley Field.

The Cubs also dropped out of first place in the National League Central, a game behind the Milwaukee Brewers (+1.5), after losing for the fifth time in seven games overall.

Every Pittsburgh starter had at least one hit Monday, the start of a seven-game homestand that could thrust the Pirates squarely into division contention going into the All-Star break if they can be anything close to as dominating as they were in the series opener.

“The whole offense was on fire all night,” Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, who gave a demonstration of why he has been invited to next week’s home run derby by hitting three dingers and driving in seven runs, told AT&T Sportsnet. “Hopefully, this lasts.”

Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.36 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday against Pittsburgh righty Joe Musgrove (6-7, 4.27 ERA).

Hendricks is slated to be activated from the injured list after missing 2 1/2 weeks because of shoulder inflammation. He was 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA in his last nine appearances before he went on the IL.

He did not need a rehab assignment because his bullpen sessions went so well, including a full 45-pitch session Saturday.

“The big thing for me is just his effort level in these bullpens,” Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told “You compare them to past effort levels, and we have all this pitch data. So I can tell how the ball’s coming out, what the (velocity) looks like.

“And if he’s doing all those things in a normal bullpen and he checks off all those boxes and all those things match up the way we want them to, it’s great.”

Still, Hendricks will probably be watched closely and limited.

“I haven’t set a number, but it’s probably between 60 to 70, 75 (pitches) at most,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You don’t want to get greedy on the first time back.”

Hendricks doesn’t expect any problems.

“I feel 100 percent. It’s good to be back,” he said.

Against Pittsburgh, Hendricks is 4-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 career starts, but he was 0-3 in his three starts against the Pirates last season. He had a 2.81 ERA in those three outings but got just one run of support each time.

Musgrove has won his past two starts, giving up one run over a combined 13 innings, with 13 strikeouts and no walks.

He yielded nine hits in six shutout innings Thursday at Houston, a 10-0 win against his former team.

“He made pitches throughout. He limited the barrel. He limited hard contact,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “I love the fact his first-pitch strikes were so efficient — I think it was 19 out of 26, and he had 11 guys retired on three pitches or less. He had one three-ball count, no walks on the day. He was on attack from the start.”

Against the Cubs, Musgrove is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in four career starts.

–Field Level Media

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