In six games, the Pirates have only intentionally walked two opposing hitters. Matt Holliday is one, but can you guess the other? Perhaps Yadier Molina? Anthony Rizzo? Starlin Castro?
No, all wrong. It was Cubs leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, who absolutely demolished Pittsburgh pitching in the season-opening series at PNC Park. Bonifacio's torrid pace began in the Steel City last week, going 11-for-16 with a pair of doubles and three runs scored against the Pirates. He'll get another chance to torment Pirates pitching when Pittsburgh and righty Charlie Morton arrive at Wrigley Field today for a three-game set.
"It would be impossible for us to believe he would maintain the clip he had through the Pittsburgh series but when he gets to the plate, he tries to work the count, he tries to get on, and when he gets on base, he wants to wreak havoc on the pitchers and the opposition," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "It's good for him to be part of our club."
The Pirates got so frustrated pitching to Bonifacio that they finally decided to give him first base. With a runner on second at two outs in the 11th inning of Wednesday's 16-inning 4-3 win by the Pirates, reliever Jeanmar Gomez intentionally walked Bonifacio. It was just the third time Bonifacio was intentionally walked in his now eight-year career, prompting laughter from the switch-hitter.
"I told [catcher Russell] Martin, 'Really?' and he said, 'We can't get you out,'" Bonifacio said after Wednesday's game. "Even the umpire was laughing."
Bonifacio, a switch hitter, will likely be the first hitter to face Morton, who allowed just five hits and struck out six in six shutout innings against Chicago on Wednesday. Renteria stacked the lineup with six lefties against Morton and will likely do so again. Left-handers have hit .327 off Morton in his career, though he held the Cubs lefties to a respectable 4-for-14 (.286).
"They're going to stack left-handers against Charlie," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Everybody that's got 'em will have 'em in the lineup. He knows that. I think he's past the point of being concerned about what left-handers are hitting against him."
Cubs: Kalish won't mess with Wrigley's bricks
Cubs outfielder Ryan Kalish became known in the Boston Red Sox organization for his willingness to do anything and everything to make a catch. That all-out mentality ultimately cost him after he made a diving catch in 2011 for Triple-A Pawtucket, forcing him to undergo four major surgeries on his neck and shoulder over a 23-month span.
After sitting out all of 2013, Kalish made the Cubs' 25-man roster out of Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. In the fourth inning of Chicago's 8-3 win over the Phillies on Sunday, Kalish crashed into the Under Armour sign in left-center to rob Ryan Howard of extra bases.
That web gem aside, Kalish said the injuries taught him how to dial back his aggressiveness on defense to preserve his body, and that he won't try to out-muscle Wrigley Field's brick outfield wall.
"I sat out way too long -- you've got to pick your spots," he said. "I mean, I think your pitchers would rather you not crush the wall and break your shoulder in the outfield and just give up a double and continue playing because we need to all play for each other, and they're going to want us out on the field rather than in the training room."
Pirates: Watson finding whiff pitch
After striking out three of the four men he faced in Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Cardinals to notch the win, Pittsburgh left-handed reliever Tony Watson has now struck out six in three shutout innings.
He's been nothing but consistent," Hurdle said. "He's grown -- his velocity has built up. The breaking ball is shaping up better. The changeup has become a big pitch for him. He's become one of the guys every club wants to talk to us about -- we've got a special guy. We've known that, and he has also opened the eyes of a number of other teams."
• Bonifacio hit a sixth-inning single in Sunday's win over the Phillies to increase his hits total to 14, leading the Major Leagues.
• Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, who picked up the win Sunday with five innings of one-run ball, became the first Cubs pitcher since 2000 to pitch in relief and make a start within the team's first six games of the season.
• In the six-game homestand, leadoff batters (Bonifacio and the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter) were 15-for-26 against the Pirates.
• After adding another inning to the string on Sunday, Mark Melancon has gone 65 innings without allowing a homer, longest active streak in the Majors.
• Cubs starter Edwin Jackson didn't get a decision in his first start of the season, which ended in a 16-inning loss to the Bucs. He held them to two hits over 5 1/3 frames but walked four. He admitted he didn't have his best stuff, and maybe pitching at home will help.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.