Starlin, Yanks strike early, cruise past Cubs

Starlin, Yanks strike early, cruise past Cubs

CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro looked right at home at Wrigley Field on Saturday night, smacking an RBI double in a five-run first inning and adding a two-run homer in the fourth, and Aaron Hicks had four hits, including a three-run homer, to power the Yankees to an 11-6 Interleague victory over the Cubs.

Castro, who played for the Cubs from 2010 until he was dealt to the Yankees in December 2015, was welcomed back on Friday with a video tribute and his walk-up music. He didn't need to hear his song on Saturday. The American League batting leader notched his fifth straight multihit game and launched his sixth homer of the season against Felix Pena.

"It's awesome," said Castro, who is now hitting .381. "I think it's good to come here and compete, especially against a really good team. That's the World Series champions last year. It's pretty good. That tests us, how good we can be and how good we are."

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Pena was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Friday, and the Cubs added Rob Zastryzny on Saturday to give them 14 pitchers on the active roster. They needed both as starter Brett Anderson retired one of the seven batters he faced in the first before exiting with lower back tightness. The lefty missed nearly all of last season after undergoing back surgery in March 2016 and is likely headed for the disabled list.

Anderson exits in 1st inning with back tightness

Anderson leaves game with injury

The Cubs turned to backup catcher Miguel Montero to pitch the ninth and help fill in because of Anderson's early exit.

"Whenever the backup catcher gets more outs than you, it's not positive," Anderson said. "You need to figure some things out and get healthy and get some more people out going forward. It's as simple as that."

#CatchersWhoPitch: Montero was the Cubs' best pitcher Saturday

New York starter Jordan Montgomery allowed just three hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out three. The rookie left-hander has been stingy, and has now given up three runs or fewer in each of his five starts this season. Montgomery said that the early cushion helped him settle in, using both his curveball and changeup effectively.

"You need to still throw like it's 0-0," Montgomery said. "You can't get too relaxed. These guys can still put up big numbers if you throw it right down the middle. You want to pitch your game and just roll with the catcher."

The Yankees now have won 18 of their last 23 games to move a season-high 10 games over .500 (19-9).

"We have a lot of great players," Castro said. "It's pretty good to be part of a team like that."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Quick start: Anderson was coming off a short outing Monday in which he lasted 1 1/3 innings, and Saturday was the shortest start of his career. Brett Gardner doubled to lead off. Hicks bunted and Anderson fielded the ball, but he made an off-balance throw into foul territory and Gardner scored on the error. Castro followed with an RBI double and one out later, he scored on Gary Sanchez's single. Didi Gregorius singled, and he and Sanchez tallied on Chase Headley's double. Pitching coach Chris Bosio went to the mound and then called for the trainer, and Anderson was removed. The Cubs now have given up 38 earned runs in the first inning over 30 games for an 11.40 ERA.

"We need to get in a groove," Montero said. "I think the whole team needs to get in a groove. For the hitters, for the most part, we've been coming from behind. First inning, they score some runs and it's hard to come back all the time."

Headley's two-run double

Hitting machine: Hicks matched his career high with the four hits. He singled in the first and second, doubled in the fourth and added a three-run homer in the eighth. The home run, which came off a 2-1 pitch from Zastryzny, was his sixth of the season. It's the third time he's totaled four hits in a game, and first since Aug. 12, 2015, against the Rangers. His homer mattered as the Cubs scored three runs in the eighth, including a pair on Montero's pinch-hit single.

"I've just been making some good passes on some hittable pitches," Hicks said. "I've been able to put the ball in play hard and good things have happened." More >

Hicks' three-run homer

QUOTABLE
"This is a fierce lineup. They can score a lot of runs really quickly and they have a lot of power in their lineup. To be able to do that, to pitch really well for 6 2/3 innings, should be a nice stepping stone for him." -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi, on Montgomery's outing

"We lost badly tonight. But we just came off a three-game winning streak -- the sky is not falling, we just had a bad night. Putting the pieces together, and having to move [Matt Szczur] out of here, that was the tough part of the day, and that's the part that lingers with you organizationally as a manager, as a [general manager], as a [team] president. It's a lost ballgame, you throw it away. When you have to lose a guy like Matty, that's the most difficult part of the day." -- manager Joe Maddon, on the Cubs designating Szczur for assignment to make room for Zastryzny More >

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to Statcast™, Cubs starters began the night with the highest average exit velocity allowed in the first inning (91.5 mph) of any team. Anderson gave up three batted balls hit at 95 mph or above to contribute to that.

Sanchez's RBI single

EXTRA ARMS
Montero made his second career appearance on the mound in the ninth. The catcher also pitched 1 1/3 innings on July 3, 2016, against the Mets in a 14-3 loss. He faced five Yankees batters, walked two, and threw 25 pitches, 11 for strikes, in a scoreless inning.

Montero retires Refsnyder

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: Luis Severino will face the Cubs for the first time in his career on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. ET, looking to bounce back from a rough outing against the Blue Jays in which he served up two homers and was handed his second loss of the year. Primarily relying on his fastball and slider, Severino has struck out 36 against six walks in 32 2/3 innings this year.

Cubs: Jon Lester will close the Interleague series against the Yankees at Wrigley FIeld. The lefty has a 13-6 record and a 3.78 ERA in 29 career starts against the Yankees, who he has not faced since June 28, 2014. After going 0-1 in five April starts, Lester picked up a win in his last outing against the Phillies. First pitch will be at 7:05 p.m. CT.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.