Apr 8, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro (13) runs the bases after hitting a three-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Starlin Castro homers twice as Cubs drop series opener to Pirates

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After a three-run home run off the bat of Starlin Castro tied the contest in the bottom of the third inning, it appeared the Cubs were turning the corner. However, the Chicago offense failed to muster enough runs in the late innings, as the club fell to the Pirates for the third time this season – this time by a 7-6 final.

With the bases loaded in the top of the eighth and left-handed specialist James Russell on the mound following a two-out walk to Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin drove a fly ball to Nate Schierholtz in right field that scored Starling Marte from third and gave the Pirates (5-2) the lead for good.

Chicago (2-5) trailed 4-0 by the time they stepped to the dish in the bottom of the first after starter Edwin Jackson allowed a four spot to get things started in the top of the inning.

A two-run double off the bat of Alvarez accounted for half of those runs. A Neil Walker single and a Travis Ishikawa sacrifice fly accounted for the other  two off the Cubs’ right-hander, who pitched into the fifth, allowing six earned runs on nine hits, while issuing four walks and four strikeouts.

Cubs infielder Emilio Bonifacio continued his torrid start to the season, lacing an opposite field single into left center for the team’s first RBI of the night in the bottom of the second. Tuesday night marked the fifth time Bonifacio tallied multiple hits in seven games this season.

Castro’s three-run blast to left field came in the third against Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton. The Chicago shortstop also made several nice defensive plays, including the fielding of a ground ball that was hit up the middle in the top of the sixth, robbing Alvarez of a base hit to center.

But his night was not done there.

In the bottom of the sixth, Castro drilled a pitch from Morton, depositing it into the left field bleachers for his first two-homer game of his big league career, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 6-5.

Cubs reliever Justin Grimm worked his way out of trouble with an impressive top of the seventh inning, as he continues to work on becoming a major piece of the Chicago relief corps, which led to the game-tying base hit by Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the frame.

In addition to Grimm, Renteria used a total of five other relievers following Jackson, including Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop, James Russell and Jose Veras. Pittsburgh skipper Clint Hurdle turned the ball over to the formidable late-inning combo of Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, both of whom were dominant.

Note: In the top of the ninth inning and the Chicago closer Veras on the hill, a two-strike pitch that appeared to hit the outside edge of the plate was called a ball, prompting an argument from Cubs skipper Ricky Renteria, who was quickly ejected by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. It was Renteria’s first big league managerial ejection.

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Tags: Chicago Cubs Edwin Jackson Starlin Castro

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