Game One – Cubs 3 Pirates 6
WP – Kevin Correia (1-0) LP – Ryan Dempster (0-1) Save – Joel Hanrahan (1)
The Chicago Cubs 2011 season began on a cold and rainy day at the Friendly Confines … and in the first game of 162, the Cubs played a lot like they did a year ago.
The Cubs offense had chances early and often but could not manage anything but singles against Pirates’ pitching. The Cubs recorded 11 hits on the afternoon, not one for extra bases. Q’s offense put runners on base in all but two innings, left ten on base and finished the afternoon 2-for-10 with RISP.
Ryan Dempster was very good over the first four innings. Dempster picked up where he left off in Spring Training. At one point Dempster retired nine in a row and took a 2-0 lead into the fifth.
Dempster labored through a 34-pitch inning fifth inning, walked two and served up a Grand Slam to Neil Walker (2-for-4 with a double, a home run, a walk, two runs scored and four RBI). Walker’s first career Grand Slam gave the Bucs a 4-2 lead … and the pesky Pirates never looked back.
Andrew McCutchen, who torched Cubs’ pitching a year ago, got just enough of a 0-1 pitch from Dempster in the seventh. McCutchen’s two-run homer gave the Pirates and commanding 6-2 lead … and chased Dempster from the game.
Dempster allowed six runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings with four walks and seven strikeouts. Free passes and home runs hurt Dempster and the Cubs again … five of the Pirates six hits against Dempster were for extra bases, three doubles and two home runs. Dempster must maintain a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio to give his team a chance to win.
Starlin Castro had an excellent afternoon in his first big league Opening Day. Castro scored two of the Cubs three runs, finished the game 3-for-5 and played excellent defense at shortstop.
Carlos Pena made his Cubs’ debut and knocked in a run, walked and added a single in four trips to the plate. Pena also made two excellent picks that saved Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez an error in the first game of the season.
The Cubs lost on Opening Day for the fourth time in the last five years … one game does not make a season. The Cubs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Starlin Castro ripped a 1-0 pitch down the third baseline. Pedro Alvarez made a good stop but could not field the ball cleanly. Castro reached on the infield single.
Marlon Byrd hit a chopper to Alvarez at third on a 1-1 pitch. Alvarez airmailed his throw to Overbay at first. Castro rounded second and headed for third … then was waived in by Ivan DeJesus. Castro slid in head first ahead of Overbay’s throw with the season’s first run.
With Byrd at second, Aramis Ramirez lined out to right and Carlos Pena walked. Geovany Soto popped out to first to end the inning.
Ryan Dempster retired the Pirates in order in the second and third.
The Cubs tacked on a run in the bottom of the third … but it should have been more. Kosuke Fukudome led off with a single to right on a 1-2 pitch. Castro hit a bullet up the middle that Neil Walker knocked down and rolled to Cedeno. Fukudome was forced but Castro reached on the fielder’s choice.
Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez singled to load the bases. With one out, Carlos Pena hit a sharp grounder to the hole at second. Castro scored on the play as Ramirez was forced at second. Geovany Soto hit a weak, sinking liner to short. Pena was forced to end the inning.
Dempster had retired nine in a row before a two-out double by Lyle Overbay in the fourth. Dempster struck out Alvarez to end the fourth … and maintained the 2-0 lead.
The wheels fell off for Ryan Dempster in the fifth. Dempster had very good control and had not walked a batter … and all of the command problems came back to hurt him and the Cubs.
Ryan Doumit led off with a single to center. Garrett Jones grounded out to third on a 3-2 pitch. Doumit advanced to second on the play. Dempster then issued his first walk of the afternoon to the free-swinging Ronny Cedeno.
Kevin Correia dropped down a sac bunt, both runners advanced on the play.
Dempster walked Jose Tabata to load the bases with two outs and the Cubs up 2-0.
Neil Walker stepped in and worked the count to 3-2 before launching a ball to the back of the bleachers in right. The Pirates took a 4-2 lead with one swing of the bat.
While the Cubs were busy making outs, Dempster worked in and out of a jam in the sixth. Mike Quade allowed Dempster to take the hill in the seventh … and it cost the Cubs two runs.
Dempster made quick work of Kevin Correia and Jose Tabata. But Neil Walker ripped a double into right center past Fukudome on a 0-1 pitch. Andrew McCutchen launched a 0-1 pitch into the first row of the bleachers in left center … 6-2 Pirates.
Mike Quade brought in James Russell to finish out the inning.
Ryan Dempster left with two outs in the seventh after allowing six runs on six hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. Dempster threw 114 pitches, 73 for strikes.
The Cubs made it 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh. Darwin Barney led off with a gift single. Barney popped a 3-2 pitch right just to the third base side of the mound. Doumit went out to catch the ball and appeared to be called off by Alvarez. The ball fell and Barney reached with his second single of the game.
After Tyler Colvin struck out against lefty Garrett Olson.
Kosuke Fukudome swung at and missed a 0-1 offering from Olson in the dirt. The ball hit Doumit in shin guards and bounced away. Barney took second and scored on a single to left center by Fukudome.
Castro blooped a single into right to put runners on first and second with one out … Marlon Byrd flied out to center and Aramis Ramirez flied out to the track in left center to end the inning.
James Russell and John Grabow kept the Pirates from adding on … but Jeff Samardzija could not throw strikes, again.
Jose Tabata reached on a one out single. Samardzija then walked Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen to load the bases. After a visit from Mark Riggins, Samardzija found the strike zone and was bailed out by Starlin Castro.
Lyle Overbay hit a sinking liner to the hole at short. Castro dove, caught the ball and doubled off Walker from second to end the inning.
The Cubs put two on in the ninth. Fukudome walked and Castro reached on an infield single. But with one out, Marlon Byrd struck out looking on three pitches and Aramis Ramirez grounded out to short to end the game.
Winning on Opening Day is great but it does not mean a team will or will not have a good season … just ask the Pirates. With Friday’s win, Pittsburgh has won on Opening Day the last five years. With that said, Mike Quade and his players have a lot of work to do.
Carlos Zambrano will face Paul Maholm in game two Saturday just after noon.