One of the most exciting days in baseball, Opening Day, is finally here and fans all around the nation are wondering if this is the year for their team. But for Cubs fans this year, it’s another day of hoping but with low expectations. However, the Cubs gave fans a reason to smile on Monday.
Before Jeff Samardzija got on the mound to make his first Opening Day start, the Cubs offense got him a lead to work with. After David DeJesus struck out looking, Starlin Castro was able to line a base hit into left for the Cubs first hit of the season. Anthony Rizzo wasted no time in his first at-bat. On the first pitch he saw, Rizzo smashed a fastball to deep right center field for a two run homer. It was just the start the Cubs were looking for as they are expecting big things from their two young stars this year and for years to come.
Samardzija was outstanding in his season debut, but had to battle through a tough jam in the first inning. After walking Pirates lead off hitter, Starling Marte, Samardzija was able to get a ground ball which looked like a double play ball. But second baseman Brent Lillibridge made an error and could not even get an out. With two on and no one out, Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen was up with a great opportunity to cut into the Cubs early lead. But Samardzija battled the slugger and was able to get a fielder’s choice. He then escaped the jam by striking out Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez to end the inning.
Both pitchers were able to settle in after the first inning and the game became a pitchers battle. A.J. Burnett mowed down Cubs hitters with 10 strikeouts on the day. Not to be out done, Samardzija had nine punch outs of his own.
The game remained scoreless until the sixth inning when catcher Wellington Castillo drove in Nate Schierholtz on an RBI double to right field. Three runs was all Samardzija and the Cubs pitching staff would need. Samardzija went a strong eight innings, only allowing two hits and one walk. It was a somewhat surprising decision to see Dale Sveum let his starter throw over 100 pitchers on Opening Day. But with the off day Tuesday, Samardzija will be able to get an extra day of rest if needed.
But of course, there was still a ninth inning and as Cubs fans know well, no lead is safe with Carlos Marmol. Sure enough, Marmol gave the Cubs a scare in the ninth. After striking out Garret Jones, Marmol hit McCutchen, who then stole second, and scored on an Alvarez single. Then after walking Sanchez, Sveum saw enough. James Russell came in to get Neil Walker and then Kyuji Fujikawa made his Cubs and major league debut. He was very impressive in the one batter he faced. He was able to Russell Martin to fly out and secure the Cubs win.
Smiles all around for the Cubs and their fans on Opening Day. The club get the day off tomorrow and then return to action Wednesday Night. Game time set for 6:05.