CHICAGO — The Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed opening day very much this year. All three of them.
Ivan Nova pitched seven solid innings, Francisco Cervelli hit a three-run homer and Pittsburgh ruined the Chicago Cubs’ home opener with an 8-5 victory on Tuesday.
It was the third opening day for the Pirates, who also beat Detroit in the Tigers’ home opener on March 30 and topped Minnesota in their first game in Pittsburgh on April 2. The Pirates’ 8-2 record is their best 10-game start since 1992, and they are a perfect 4-0 on the road for the first time in 15 years.
“There’s fight in the team,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Not even the presence of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola basketball team, could save the Cubs. She threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field.
Cervelli and Corey Dickerson each had three hits as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in five games. Starling Marte hit his second homer, and Josh Bell had two hits and scored two runs.
Felipe Vazquez got four outs for his first save in a new jersey after he legally changed his surname to match that of his sister, Prescilla. He was known as Felipe Rivero, and he apologized Monday on Twitter to fans who bought gear with his old name.
Vazquez lives with his sister in the offseason, and she helped him in the negotiations for the contract he signed with the Pirates in January.
“We’ve been talking about it for the past 20 years, 20-something years,” he said. “We’ve been talking a lot, and we got to a point, it was time, so we just went ahead and (did) it.”
The Cubs became the last major league team to play at home a day after the series opener was postponed by snow. A crowd of 40,144 packed Wrigley on another chilly day — the gametime temperature was 43 degrees — but the fans had very little to cheer about after the first couple innings.
Javier Baez homered twice for the Cubs, and Willson Contreras collected three hits. Tyler Chatwood (0-2) was tagged for five runs and nine hits in five innings in his first home start since signing a $38 million, three-year contract with Chicago in the offseason.
“We didn’t play badly, they hit the ball well today, Pittsburgh did,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They worked the whole field.”
Baez’s solo drive to the back of the bleachers in left gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second, but the Pirates took over from there.
Dickerson hit a tiebreaking two-run double in Pittsburgh’s three-run third. Marte went deep with two out in the fourth, and Cervelli made it 8-2 with a drive to center in the seventh after Mike Montgomery surrendered consecutive two-out singles to Josh Bell and Dickerson.
It was more than enough for Nova (1-1), who bounced back nicely from a shaky performance in a 7-3 loss to Minnesota last Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander allowed three runs and seven hits, struck out six and walked none.
The curveball “was good,” Nova said. “In the beginning, we didn’t have it, we didn’t throw it as much. Cervy kept calling that pitch until we finally got that rhythm.”
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth against Edgar Santana, and Jason Heyward bounced a two-run single back up the middle against Vazquez. But Baez struck out swinging to end the inning.
Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser and some of his players from the Ramblers’ Final Four team were recognized on the field before the game. Senior guard Ben Richardson and Sister Jean, the nun who rocketed to fame during the team’s NCAA Tournament run, each threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Moser and a couple of the players also led the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove, who is on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, threw a bullpen session.
Cubs: First baseman Anthony Rizzo was placed on the 10-day disabled list with lower back tightness. The move was made retroactive to Friday. “You got to stay smart and that’s what we’re doing,” Rizzo said. Infielder/outfielder Efren Navarro was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to take Rizzo’s spot on the roster.
Left-handers Steven Brault of the Pirates and Jon Lester of the Cubs face off on Wednesday night. Brault (2-0, 1.13 ERA) pitched five effective innings in a 5-2 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday in his first start of the season. Lester (1-0, 2.89 ERA) is coming off six crisp innings in an 8-0 victory at Milwaukee.