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Pirates' 5 solo home runs go for naught in a setback against Cubs

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
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Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage (center) and catcher Russell Martin (55) talk with relief pitcher Jeanmar Gomez during the sixth inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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The Cubs' Emilio Bonifacio (right) scores on an RBI double hit by teammate Justin Ruggiano as catcher Russell Martin waits for the throw during the first inning Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
Pirates starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez pauses after giving up a solo home run to Chicago Cubs' Junior Lake during the fifth inning Wednesday, April 9, 2014.
Cubs catcher Welington Castillo misses a pop foul by the Pirates' Russell Martin during the second inning Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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The Cubs' Junior Lake (right) and teammate Emilio Bonifacio celebrate in the dugout after Lake hit a solo home run during the fifth inning against the Pirates on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez tags out the Cubs' Justin Ruggiano at third base after Mike Olt hit into a fielder's choice during the first inning Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (left) and teammate Welington Castillo go for a pop foul hit by the Pirates' Russell Martin during the second inning Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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The Cubs' Mike Olt follows through on a two-run home run, scoring teammate Anthony Rizzo (44) during the fifth inning against the Pirates on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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Pirates starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers during the first inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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Pirates starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers during the first inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen walks away after striking out during the seventh inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (right) celebrates with third-base coach Nick Leyva after hitting a solo home run during the ninth inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
The Pirates' Starling Marte reacts to striking out during the eighth inning against the Cubs on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.
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CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 9: Manager Clint Hurdle #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (L) congratulates Russell Martin #55 after Martin hit a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (24), celebrates with Russell Martin (55) at home plate after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Closing pitcher Pedro Strop celebrates after the Cubs defeated the Pirates on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Chicago.

CHICAGO — After missing most of last season with chronic forearm pain, Pirates left-hander Wandy Rodriguez seemed to catch a break by having his first two starts of 2014 come against the Chicago Cubs.

It didn't work out that way.

The Cubs, a popular pick to finish last in the NL Central, beat Rodriguez last week at PNC Park. On Wednesday, they knocked him around at Wrigley Field for a 7-5 victory.

The Pirates got three hits — all solo homers — in seven innings off right-hander Jason Hammel.

With a strong breeze blowing out to center, the Pirates had five solo homers among their six hits. Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez homered twice each as the Pirates tallied five runs without ever putting a runner in scoring position.

“You can chalk that up to Wrigley Field,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “A lot of crazy things can happen here.”

Rodriguez (0-2) gave up five runs and nine hits. He walked three and struck out six. His toughest inning was the sixth, when Mike Olt hit a two-run homer and Junior Lake followed with a solo shot.

“I had one big mistake: the home run (by Lake) on a changeup,” Rodriguez said. “Everything felt very good. My curveball was good. My changeup was great, and I used it a lot.”

Despite the two losses, Hurdle is encouraged by what he has seen from Rodriguez.

“The line doesn't look as good as what we think we saw,” Hurdle said. “You've got to remember how long he's been away from the mound. He needs innings. You can pitch all you want in spring training, it's not the same beast as (in the season).”

Hammel retired the first 12 batters he faced. Alvarez broke the spell in the fifth inning by catching hold of a sinker and launching it into the left field bleachers.

Alvarez's leadoff shot tied it at 1-1. But the Cubs pounced on Rodriguez for three runs in the bottom of the inning.

With two outs, Anthony Rizzo dropped a single into left center. Olt hit the next pitch for a high fly ball to left. Starling Marte drifted back ... and back some more ... then turned and watched the ball barely clear the wall.

Three pitches later, Lake blasted a 400-foot homer that landed on Waveland Avenue beyond left field.

That was plenty of cushion for Hammel (2-0), who dominated the Pirates for his second straight start.

Travis Snider and Martin homered for the Pirates in the seventh inning. Alvarez and Martin hit back-to-back home runs in the ninth.

Rodriguez's fifth-inning collapse was surprising, considering he won a battle in the fourth when Emilio Bonifacio came up with two outs and runners on second and third.

Normally, a pitcher won't convene a meeting to decide whether to intentionally walk a him. However, Bonifacio's major league-leading .514 batting average gave Rodriguez pause.

Rodriguez and catcher Martin talked it over. They knew Starlin Castro, who homered twice Tuesday, was on deck.

Martin went back to the plate and got down in his crouch. Rodriguez got strike one, then fired a pitch in the dirt. Martin blocked it, saving at least one run. Rodriguez then got Bonifacio to strike out swinging.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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