The Chicago Cubs, going into the second and final game of a series Wednesday against the host Pittsburgh Pirates, have found a formula for winning.
His name is Seiya Suzuki.
The Cubs have started 3-1 for the third straight season, and so far Suzuki is a big reason why.
He homered twice Tuesday to spoil Pittsburgh’s home opener, 2-1. After starring in Japan, he is 5-for-12 with three home runs and eight RBIs through his first four games in the major leagues.
“He’s good. I mean, it’s not rocket science. He can flat swing the bat,” Chicago acting manager Andy Green said. “He’s really done a good job of controlling the strike zone.”
Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton called Suzuki a “pretty good” hitter.
“I think Major League Baseball is going to find that out pretty quickly,” he said.
Chicago manager David Ross is expected back in the dugout Wednesday after serving a one-game suspension for a hit-batsman situation.
Tuesday’s game came hours after the Pirates formally announced the signing of third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes to an eight-year contract extension. They portrayed the $70 million deal for the 25-year-old budding star as a key to a rebuild for a franchise that has taken a lot of heat for low payrolls and its perceived relation to losing seasons.
“The organization has been through a lot over the last decade or so,” Pittsburgh owner Bob Nutting said. “We’ve certainly seen some successes, and we’ve seen some challenges. And during that time, we have realized that our greatest success (was) when we’ve had a core of young players that we believed in, players that make a difference.
“And Ke’Bryan Hayes is one of those players, and (this) is one of those moments. It’s time for us, as an organization, to put a stake in the ground.”
Hayes, whose forte is his defense at third but who has offensive potential, was 1-for-4 Tuesday with a stolen base. He is part of a youth movement — along with center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who homered Tuesday — who represent the Pirates’ new cornerstones.
“There should be some excitement about what we’re doing,” Shelton said.
As for Wednesday, Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 1.69 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Zach Thompson (0-0, 0.00 ERA).
Hendricks was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter. He did not get a decision against Milwaukee after going 5 1/3 innings, giving up one run and five hits, with seven strikeouts and three walks.
“Phenomenal performance as usual,” Ross said. “Steady, gets out of jams early, makes pitches, knows how to navigate a lineup really well. That’s why we put him first.
“His stuff is better than it’s ever been. His curveball is spinning as good as it’s spun, same with the changeup, the movement, the way he’s locating the fastball up. I think the key to him … is just continuing to pitch his game and hone in and not get in a hurry.”
Hendricks is 7-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 24 career starts against Pittsburgh, including 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA in five starts last year.
Thompson, making his season and Pirates debut, was acquired by Pittsburgh from Miami last November. He was 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA in his rookie season, including 0-1 with a 0.90 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs.
–Field Level Media