The Chicago Cubs piled on the runs in historic fashion Saturday, crushing the Pirates 21-0 at Wrigley Field in the franchise’s largest shutout win since at least 1901.
After two sluggish offensive performances in losses in the first two games of the series, the Cubs pounded out 23 hits — the team’s most since a 23-hit performance at Arizona in 2005.
Manager David Ross welcomed the offensive outburst, which gained steam in an eight-run second inning that newly recalled infielder Alfonso Rivas capped with a three-run homer to right field.
“Definitely enjoyable,” Ross said. “It’s just good for the psyche — just to pile on hits, get your numbers in a game like that, build up a little bit. It’s always nice.”
The win also snapped a four-game losing streak that began Tuesday with a 6-5 home loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Nico Hoerner was one of five Cubs to record three or more hits, finishing with three RBIs on a career-high four hits. After a three-hit performance Friday, it also marked the first back-to-back three-hit games of his career.
Rivas, Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Willson Conteras all had three hits.
“I’m not going to list it off because it felt like everybody had a really good day,” Ross said. “Just quality at-bat after quality at-bat.”
Contreras drove in three runs and and Happ two.
Suzuki stole the first base of his major-league career and went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI while scoring a career-best three runs. Through interpreter Toy Matsushita, Suzuki said he never had seen anything like Saturday’s offensive blitz.
“This was my first time experiencing a game with that much offense, so (I was) surprised,” Suzuki said.
Rivas got the start at first base after joining the team ahead of Friday’s 4-2 loss, and he looked right at home at Wrigley. He slashed .538/.571/.923 in three games with Triple-A Iowa after two appearances for the Cubs earlier in the month.
“(Rivas) was working on some stuff before he left and came back and contributed really well, hitting the ball in the air, big home run there,” Ross said. “We hadn’t had some of those break-open homers yet or doubles with the bases loaded. He came up with a big knock there. He plays really good defense.”
The 25-year-old’s second-inning blast traveled 416 feet, putting the Cubs up nine and effectively ending starter Zach Thompson’s afternoon after he gave up nine hits and four earned runs in two innings. Rivas finished with a career-high five RBIs.
“It definitely gives you confidence, going down and treating it as a temporary move, expecting to come back,” Rivas said. “(Ross) is really good at communicating that. It helped me a lot.”
Kyle Hendricks (1-1) earned his first win of the season, allowing just two hits and walking none in seven innings.
“They call him ‘The Professor’ for a reason,” Rivas said of Hendricks. “It was awesome playing defense behind him, getting quick outs, seeing him work the corners and changing speeds. That’s what he does.”
The margin of victory surpassed 19-0 shutout wins on June, 7 1906, against the New York Giants and on May 13, 1969, against the San Diego Padres.
The Cubs’ 21 runs were the most since they scored 26 against the Colorado Rockies on August 18, 1995. And the 21-run win margin marked the team’s largest since a 24-2 win at the Boston Braves on July 3, 1945.
Ross called Hoerner, who is hitting .327 and is tied with Suzuki for a team-high 16 hits, a “complete player.”
“Defensively as well, he’s starting to feel good,” Ross said. “Timing and the rhythm looks really nice. He feels good at the plate. He feels good physically. He’s a guy that’s going to make some contact. I like that he’s using all fields. He’s Line drives over shortstop.”
Hoerner said he was pleased to see Rivas rejoin the team.
“Just a guy who’s always consistent,” Hoerner said. “Very consistent personality, great defender and someone I believe in a lot. Really happy for him.”
Rivas was called up after the Cubs placed Clint Frazier on the 10-day injured list. The outfielder underwent an appendectomy Friday.
Hendricks made sure to soak in the festive atmosphere while posting his first win in his fourth start of the season.
“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.”
Gavin Good is a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune.