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PIT@CHC: Olt jacks two-run homer to left field

CHICAGO -- Jason Hammel was looking forward to pitching at Wrigley Field since he signed with the Cubs in February. The right-hander had made 216 career starts and had been to the ballpark as a visitor, but he had never taken the mound there.

He won't forget his first game, especially after it ended with Anthony Rizzo congratulating him on his first National League win.

Hammel held the Pirates to three hits, all solo home runs, over seven innings, and Mike Olt and Junior Lake belted back-to-back homers to help power the Cubs to a 7-5 victory Wednesday night and even the series.

This wasn't Hammel's first NL win, of course -- Rizzo apparently forgot that the right-hander beat the Pirates last Thursday at PNC Park and also won 27 games with the Rockies -- but it prompted some good-natured humor.

"I have to throw my first baseman under the bus," Hammel said as he entered the media interview room. "He just congratulated me on my first NL win. Just make sure everybody knows Rizzo was not with us in Pittsburgh last week. That's a good one -- I didn't know I didn't win at all in Colorado either."

Rizzo acknowledged his mistake, and corrected it.

"We had a great atmosphere in here after the game," Rizzo said. "[Hammel] pitched his tail off, and we got him the 'W,' which is nice, and he's off to a great 2-0 start."

For the record, this was Hammel's first win at Wrigley Field.

"I got my first taste of Wrigley, and I hope it's much kinder next time," he said. "When the wind is howling out you've got to keep the ball down, and I made three mistakes today, and they all left the yard. I think a couple of those are outs in other ballparks, but you still have to keep the ball down."

Hammel said the 7-1 lead the Cubs opened after six innings helped him stay aggressive in the zone. It was already his second meeting against the Pirates this year; had he altered his approach?

"Today I featured more fastballs in and maybe threw offspeed first, and [tried to] get ahead with offspeed," he said. "Other than that, I was letting them dictate if you need to change your game plan and make adjustments, but they didn't do too much. If you're throwing strikes, you can get good hitters out."

Hammel retired the first 12 batters he faced before Pedro Alvarez led off the fifth with his third home run of the season, launching a 1-2 fastball to left. Hammel also served up a leadoff home run to Travis Snider in the seventh and a solo shot to Russell Martin two outs later. Alvarez and Martin weren't done, hitting back-to-back homers in the ninth off Pedro Strop.

The Cubs' starter got some defensive help from shortstop Starlin Castro, who made a nice diving stop and throw to get Starling Marte to open the Pirates' fourth, and then drifted to shallow center to catch Snider's fly ball for the second out.

Darwin Barney also made a great play on Jordy Mercer's grounder to open the sixth, and he threw to Rizzo in time, although the first baseman had to do the splits to catch the ball.

"Outstanding defense up the middle; unbelieveable, Darwin and Starlin both," Hammel said. "We've got a solid squad. We lost a couple close ones here, but we still have 150-plus to go. It's a very long season."

"It's up to us for [the pitchers] to trust us and throw balls down the middle and let them hit it to us and let us make the plays," Rizzo said. "I think we're coming together real nice as a team right now."

Emilio Bonifacio got it all started when he singled to lead off for the Cubs, his Major League-leading 18th hit and 15th against the Pirates, and he scored one out later on Justin Ruggiano's double. Bonifacio would add one more hit, a double, in the sixth.

Olt belted his second home run of the season -- on his second hit of the year -- with two outs and a runner on in the Chicago fifth to open a 3-1 lead. Lake followed with his home run, the first time Cubs batters have gone back to back this season. Olt is still learning about Wrigley, too.

"I've heard some things about this field that [the wind] can either blow in hard or blow out," Olt said. "I was definitely happy to get something up in the air today."

Olt acknowledged he was a little pull happy early.

"Usually when I'm in a little bit of a funk and I feel I'm not right, that's my approach is to go up the middle and stay balanced and stay there," he said.

Olt and Lake have been part of Rick Renteria's platoon system, but the Cubs manager said he may go with Olt on Thursday in the series finale against right-hander Gerrit Cole.

"I'm confident in them, and what we're trying to build is the confidence they should have within themselves; that's the biggest thing," Renteria said. "Today they faced a lefty [in Wandy Rodriguez] and as the game progressed, they started to face righties, so they hit against both sides of the arm slot, and I think they held their own."

"The way I look at it," Olt said, "is I just have to be ready when I do get in there, and I'm trying to make sure I can get as much practice as I can and stay as fresh as I can."

Rizzo added an RBI double with one out in the sixth, which Olt directly followed with an RBI single. Lake hit a grounder to Alvarez, who threw to second for the force, then fired to first baseman Travis Ishikawa for what first-base umpire Mark Carlson called a double play. But Renteria challenged the call, and after a one-minute review, the call was overturned. Lake was credited with a fielder's choice and RBI to open a 7-1 lead.

Rizzo finished with four hits, matching his career high, and bounced back after a slow start.

"You want to get the seven, 12, 100 hits that Bonifacio got," Rizzo said, exaggerating slightly. "It's a long season, we went through a long season last year, and you know two weeks aren't going to make or break your season. It's nice to rack up some hits early."

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