Baseball / Sports

Castro, Rizzo lead Cubs to 6-3 win over Pirates

CHICAGO -- With all of the attention surrounding the emerging hitters in the Chicago Cubs minor league system, a couple of young pillars of the current big league roster continue to impress this season.

Starlin Castro belted a three-run homer and Anthony Rizzo hit a bases-loaded double Friday to propel the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Chris Coughlan also contributed offensively, going 2-for-3 with a triple and a homer to help Edwin Jackson gain the victory even though he had to leave after five innings with cramps in both calves.

Cubs President Theo Epstein credits first-year manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff for helping Castro and Rizzo thrive this year after their down seasons in 2013.

"Ricky has done a really nice job being consistent," Epstein said before the game without directly mentioning former manager Dale Sveum. "You guys know how positive he is, how much energy he brings to the park each day.

"We really wanted to establish an environment where young players know that they can fail and keep finding their names in the lineup and keep having support of those around them."

Epstein contends the two 24-year-olds are playing at an All-Star level and deserve all the credit but ...

"You have to tip your hat to the manager and the coaching staff as well for creating the environment that allows the players to get better and thrive."

Castro extended his hitting streak to a season-long eight games, during which he is hitting .424 (14-for-33). He has 13 multi-hit games this season and he leads the club with 43 RBIs.

Rizzo has terrorized the Pirates this season, hitting .341 (14-for-41) with nine RBIs in 11 games. He hit just .162 against the Pirates last season.

"They treat us like professionals, which is nice," Rizzo said of the Cubs current coaching staff. "No one is slacking off. If someone is, jump on 'em real quick and get back on track. Just go from there."

The Cubs took a 5-0 lead in the third inning on Rizzo's bases-loaded two-run double and Castro's three-run homer off Pirates starter Charlie Morton.

Castro "is relaxing," Rizzo said. "Last year is behind him, behind both of us and everyone. So he is just relaxing and playing loose. He is playing better at shortstop as well. Everything is carrying over."

Jackson struggled with his control in the fifth inning, walking the first two batters before giving up a three-run homer to Jordy Mercer to make it 5-3.

"I definitely gave them a chance to get back in the game, but fortunately I was able to finish the inning and the bullpen came in and did a hell of a job," said Jackson, who struck out eight.

Brian Schlitter, Wesley Wright, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and closer Hector Rondon blanked the Pirates over the final four innings with Rondon earning his eighth save.

Coghlan hit his second homer of the year to lead off the fifth to give the Cubs a 6-3 advantage.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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