Game One – Cubs 5 Braves 16
WP – Derek Lowe (1-0) LP – Carlos Zambrano (0-1) Save – None
There are 161 games remaining on the schedule but no team wants to play like Lou Piniella’s did Monday on Opening Day. Everything that could go wrong did.
From bad defense to bad baserunning to eight walks to an unproductive bottom third of the lineup, a blown call and a meltdown from the team’s number one pitcher, to say the Cubs had a bad Opening Day would be an understatement.
After Marlon Byrd gave his new team a 3-0 lead in the first inning with his first homer as a Cub, Carlos Zambrano gave up six runs in the home half on the way to one of the shortest outings of his career.
Zambrano walked Melky Cabrera to start the game then gave up a couple of bloop hits. The Braves did not hit the ball hard, even the game tying single by Yunel Escobar was just hit in the right place for the Braves. Jason Heyward changed all of that.
On his first swing in a Major League game, Heyward gave the Braves a 6-3 lead with a long home run over the wall in right. Heyward was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, four RBI and a home run in his Major League debut.
Carlos Zambrano completed his meltdown in the second inning. His throwing error allowed the Braves seventh run to score. Brian McCann ended Big Z’s day with another long homer to right.
Zambrano’s line for Opening Day: 8 runs, all earned, on 6 hits with 2 walks, a strikeout, a hit batsman and an error in 1 1/3 inning.
Sean Marshall and James Russell put together solid outings out of the pen … and kept their team in the game. Marshall sat down all eight batters he faced with five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. Russell, in his big league debut, gave up two hits in two innings of work with a strikeout.
The game changed with a blown call by the umpires in the sixth. With the Cubs down by a score of 8-5, Aramis Ramirez led off with a single. Marlon Byrd then ripped a ball into the gap in left center. Nate McLouth tried to make a diving catch, one the umpires thought he hauled in. Replays cleared showed McLouth did not catch the ball. Lou Piniella argued and the umpires discussed it but the play stood and Ramirez was doubled off for the second out in the inning.
The Braves blew it open in the seventh and eighth innings against Jeff Samardzija (6 runs, 4 earned, on 2 hits with 3 walks and a strikeout in 1/3 of an inning) and Justin Berg (2 runs on 2 hits with 3 walks in one-plus innings of work).
Monday was the worst loss in the modern era (since the 1800s) for the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day.
After Aramis Ramirez flied out to right center, Marlon Byrd ripped a 0-1 pitch from Derek Lowe over the wall in center … 3-0 Cubs. Byrd became the first Cubs since Hendry Rodriguez in 1998 to homer in his first at bat with the organization.
Carlos Zambrano took the hill in the home half of the first … and was the same old Carlos Zambrano. With a 3-0 lead, Zambrano walked Melky Cabrera to start the inning. Then Martin Prado blooped a single down the right field line. With runners on first and third with no outs, Chipper Jones popped a single into left center … that should have been caught. The ball fell in between Ryan Theriot and Marlon Byrd and allowed Cabrera to score.
Brian McCann loaded the bases with a single to right center. Zambrano struck out Troy Glaus swinging for the first out.
Yunel Escobar (2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and five RBI) had a huge afternoon. He stepped in and tied the game at three with a single to center. Escobar did not hit the ball hard, just enough to get the ball past the limited range of Ryan Theriot.
Jason Heyward got ahead in the count 2-0 in his first big league at bat, then launched Zambrano’s next pitch over the wall in right … a three-run shot on his first swing in the big leagues. Zambrano was done after Heyward’s homer.
Zambrano walked Nate McLouth following the Heyward blast. Derek Lowe sacrificed McLouth to second but Cabrera, the tenth hitter of the inning, lined out to Theriot to end the inning.
After Lowe retired the bottom of the Cubs lineup in the second, the Braves went back to work on Zambrano in the bottom of the second.
Zambrano hit Martin Prado to start the inning. Chipper Jones grounded out to Mike Fontenot at the hole at second. Fontenot threw the ball to Zambrano covering the bag. Prado rounded second and took off for third. Zambrano airmailed the throw to third, Prado scored 7-3 Braves.
Brian McCann ended Zambrano’s day with a homer to right … 8-3 Braves with one out in the second.
Sean Marshall replaced Zambrano and gave his team a chance.
Kosuke Fukudome doubled to left with one out in the third. After Derrek Lee grounded out to short, Aramis Ramirez hit his first homer of 2010 … a two-run shot over the wall in left and cut the Braves lead to 8-5. That would be the Cubs last highlight.
Alfonso Soriano, Mike Fontenot and Geovany Soto finished the first game of the season 0-for-10 with three strikeouts.
James Russell took over for Marshall in the fifth. In his Major League debut, Russell picked up where Marshall left off. Russell pitched two scoreless innings.
Jeff Samardzija and Justin Berg were just awful. Samardzija walked the bases loaded in the seventh before serving up a bases clearing double to Yunel Escobar. Jason Heyward then hit a grounder to Derrek Lee … and he threw the ball away. With Heyward at second, Samardzija struck out Nate McLouth for the first out.
Eric Hinske tripled off the wall in right center. Heyward scored and ended Samardzija’s day.
Justin Berg allowed an inherited run to score in the seventh then walked three in the eighth and gave up two more runs.
Five of the eight free passes issued by the Cubs on Monday came around to score.
It is just one game … but it was an ugly Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs have a scheduled day off on Tuesday then will try to rebound on Wednesday night behind Ryan Dempster. Jair Jurrjens will take the ball for Bobby Cox.