CHICAGO — It felt like the arrival of summertime at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon. After rain and frigid temperatures wore on fans and players alike this homestand, the sun was out, the old ballpark was packed and the beer was flowing.
The Cubs’ bats pieced together a historic performance, delivering a 21-0 rout of the Pirates to the delight of the Friendly Confines faithful. In the largest shutout victory for the franchise since at least 1901, each member of the starting lineup had at least one hit and run scored.
“Obviously, a game that got out of hand,” Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner said. “But pretty much a packed stadium for the last out. And I think just a lot of people were appreciative of kind of the first day of spring slash summer, right? In a lot of ways.
“Wrigley is awesome, always. But today was like a true Wrigley experience. I’m glad we were able to have a good day for everyone.”
That is putting it mildly.
Hoerner led a 23-hit onslaught with a career-high four hits. He joined Seiya Suzuki, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Alfonso Rivas among the five players with at least three hits in the win. Jason Heyward and Jonathan Villar also had multi-hit showings for Chicago.
Their collective performance put this Cubs’ win into the team’s record books in the following ways:
• Prior to Saturday, the Cubs’ largest shutout wins since at least 1901 were 19-0 victories on May 13, 1969 (vs. San Diego) and June 7, 1906 (at New York Giants).
• The 21 runs were the most for Chicago since plating 26 against the Rockies on Aug. 18, 1995, at Coors Field.
• The 21 runs were the most in a game at Wrigley Field for the Cubs since scoring 22 on June 3, 1987, against Houston.
• The 21-run margin of victory marked the largest for Chicago since a 24-2 road win over the Boston Braves on July 3, 1945.
• The 23 hits represented the most by the North Siders in one game since also collecting 23 on April 4, 2005, in Arizona.
“Really good day from all the guys,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I’m not going to list it off, because it felt like everybody had a really good day. Just quality at-bat after quality at-bat. Not giving anything away. Taking advantage of some mistakes in there, too.”
The Cubs had a nine-run lead by the second inning, in which Chicago enjoyed an eight-run outburst. It marked the first time the Cubs scored at least eight in one frame in a home game since July 1, 2018, against the Twins.
The exclamation point in the second came from first baseman Alfonso Rivas, who yanked a first-pitch cutter from Zach Thompson high over right field with a 105 mph exit velocity. The ball crashed about midway up the bleachers for a three-run homer.
“Big home run there,” Ross said. “We hadn’t one of those kinda break-open homers yet, or doubles with the bases loaded, or anything like that. And he came up with a big knock there.”
To Ross’ point, this Cubs lineup is centered around a higher contact rate than fans of the team have seen in recent years. The tradeoff has been reduced power via home runs, but Chicago did enter the day tied for third in the National League in doubles (27). And the Cubs came into the afternoon hitting .236 (.740 OPS) as a team with runners in scoring position.
Saturday’s win put Chicago’s offensive blueprint on display in an extreme fashion. The lineup had more walks (four) than strikeouts (three) and only had the one home run from Rivas. All four of the game’s doubles came in a five-run fifth via Suzuki, Contreras, Happ and Heyward.
“I like 21 any way we can get it,” Ross quipped. “I think that’s going to be more our signature, right? I think it’s unique here with the wind blowing out the way it was, and you look up and you put up a number like that.”
A lot of things can get lost in the shuffle in a game like this one, too.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks breezed through seven shutout innings on 76 pitches, allowing just two hits and bowing out given the substantial cushion. Suzuki pulled off his first career stolen base in the second inning, scoring on a two-run single by Contreras.
As Ross alluded, the list of feats from this game goes on and on.
“Today really felt like just a classic Wrigley day,” Hendricks said. “The crowd was amazing, and I think it really fed into our guys. You saw from the start how locked in everybody was.”