- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - After being swept in Chicago, the Pittsburgh Pirates are suddenly closer in record to the NL-worst Atlanta Braves than the first-place Cubs.

Prized prospect Willson Contreras crushed the first pitch he saw in the major leagues for a two-run home run, Kyle Hendricks struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and Chicago completed a three-game sweep of the fading Pirates in a 10-5 victory Sunday night.

The Pirates concluded a 1-5 road trip with their 10th loss in the last 11 games. They trail the Cubs by 15 games in the standings.

“They do (have young talent) and they have old talent that’s producing as well,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “Their player development group has done a great job. When you spend half a billion dollars in the last two years out in the (free agent) market, that’s pretty substantial.”

Five days after rookie Jameson Taillon blanked the New York Mets over eight innings to begin the road trip, he was rocked for three solo home runs in the first three innings. The right-hander allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk before he was lifted after four innings and 85 pitches.

“The ball was up today,” Hurdle said. “He wasn’t in position to get groundball outs. Thirty-three pitches in the first inning made him work more than we wanted him to. … It was a different outing today. He just wasn’t sharp.”

Contreras, called up from Triple-A on Friday, pinch hit for Hendricks in the sixth and sent A.J. Schugel’s changeup an estimated 415 feet to center. The cheering crowd didn’t let up until the 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher obliged with a curtain call.

Contreras arrived from Iowa on Friday and played one inning of defense. Manager Joe Maddon announced before the game that Contreras would get his first start at catcher Monday.

Rizzo added two RBI singles for the Cubs, who completed their seventh series sweep of the season.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Contreras said. “It’s incredible. I don’t have the words to explain how happy I am.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hit consecutive home runs in the third and Javier Baez added a solo shot for the Cubs, all off Taillon (1-1). Addison Russell hit a two-run shot in the seventh for the Cubs, who have eight homers in two games.

Josh Harrison’s solo home run was the lone blemish off Hendricks (5-6), who walked none and allowed seven hits.

Starling Marte returned from injury and had a two-run triple off Adam Warren in a three-run seventh.


Pirates: Marte went 3 for 5 and stolen a base in his first start since taking a one-hopper off his face Wednesday against the Mets. … C Chris Stewart - nursing knee, head, foot, elbow and rib injuries - is expected to be out a few days. Hurdle said the knee is the biggest concern.


Pirates C Jacob Stallings, son of new University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, started and went 0 for 4 in his major league debut. He struck out twice against Hendricks, including in an eight-pitch at-bat with runners at the corners to end the sixth.


Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (5-5, 5.92 ERA) starts Monday night to open a four-game home series against San Francisco and Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (8-2, 1.91). Locke has lost his last two starts.

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