Cubs Pen Blows Opening Day – Cubs 1, Nationals 2

Game One – Cubs 1, Nationals 2
WP – Tyler Clippard (1-0) LP – Carlos Marmol (0-1) Save – Brad Lidge (1)

The Chicago Cubs took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning after seven shutout innings from Ryan Dempster and a two-out RBI single by Marlon Byrd in the fourth. The Cubs offense was pretty much non-existent against Stephen Strasburg and took advantage of the only scoring opportunity they had Thursday afternoon.

Ryan Dempster started the eighth by retiring his 15th batter in a row but the Cubs defense struck again. Jeff Baker, subbing at first for the injured Bryan LaHair, let a weak grounder off the bat of Ian Desmond roll past him. The ball ended up in right for only the second hit allowed by Dempster all afternoon. Dempster stayed in and struck out Danny Espinosa to end his afternoon. After 108 pitches over 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, Dale Sveum went to the pen and brought in Kerry Wood with the Cubs up 1-0.

Kerry Wood issued three straight walks and the third one forced in Ian Desmond with the tying run. Wood got out of the inning but the questionable, at best, bullpen blew its first lead of the season.

The Nationals took their first lead of the day in the ninth after Chad Tracy reached on a two-out double off Carlos Marmol. Ian Desmond singled in pinch-runner Brett Carroll with the would-be game winner.

The Cubs had a chance in the ninth to tie the game after Ian Stewart lifted a 1-0 pitch from Brad Lidge to deep right. The ball just missed landing in the basket. Stewart ended up at third with a triple. Joe Mather pinch ran for Stewart but was thrown out at the plate. Mather broke on contact as Jeff Baker hit a routine grounder to third.

Ryan Dempster worked out of two early jams and pitched to the park. Dempster gave up a hit on his first pitch of the game and not another one until the eighth, at one point Dempster retired 15 in a row. Ryan Dempster was credited with one run on two hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings … the only run scored after he turned the game over to the pen.

The Cubs offense could not put much together against Stephen Strasburg. The Cubs managed six hits all afternoon, one for extra bases. The wind also kept Dale Sveum’s offense from hitting a couple of home runs.

Starlin Castro picked up a gift single in the first and extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Castro has reached safely in the last 41 regular season games he has played.

Marlon Byrd (1-for-4 with a RBI) drove in the Cubs lone run. David DeJesus (1-for-4), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4, CS) and Jeff Baker (1-for-3 with a walk) also collected hits.

The last time the Cubs won on Opening Day at Wrigley Field was 1996.

Game one of the season is in the books …

With the wind howling in and a game time temperature of 41 degrees, Ryan Dempster took the hill on Opening Day for the fourth time in his career.

Ian Desmond blooped Dempster’s first pitch into right. Dempster’s pitch was down and Desmond hit the ball off the end of the bat. Dempster started struggling with his command and issued a five-pitch walk to Danny Espinosa.

Dempster pitched to the old ballpark and grooved a 0-2 pitch to Ryan Zimmerman that on any other day would have left the yard. Marlon Byrd caught the ball in deep left center. Desmond and Espinosa advanced easily to second and third.

After a visit from Geovany Soto, Dempster appeared to settle down. Adam LaRoche swung and missed a 2-2 offering and Jayson Werth flied out to right (1-1 pitch) to end the inning.

The Cubs walked to the plate swinging in the bottom of the first. Stephen Strasburg retired David DeJesus (fly out to left center) and Darwin Barney (ground out to first) on three pitches.

Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to 12 games when he popped up a 1-0 pitch. Strasburg pointed up to the ball and bailed from the mound. The ball fell in between LaRoche and Zimmerman for a hit. The wind evened the score when Alfonso Soriano hit a ball to center that would have left Wrigley on a normal day … instead it was a routine fly for the third out.

The Nationals did nothing against Dempster in the second … and after a rough start, Dempster had retired six in a row at that point.

The Cubs stayed aggressive and went down in order in the second. At the end of two, Strasburg had thrown only 14 pitches, 10 for strikes (seven in each inning).

Dempster dodged another bullet in the third after Strasburg grounded out weakly to short to start the inning. Ian Desmond hit a routine grounder to Ian Stewart on a 3-2 pitch. Stewart fielded the ball but dropped it for the Cubs’ first charged error of the season. Dempster then walked Desmond and Zimmerman to load the bases with one out.

Adam LaRoche struck out swinging on three pitches and Jayson Werth flied out to the track in right (1-1 pitch) to end the inning.

After three, Dempster’s pitch count stood at 54, 31 for strikes.

The Cubs stayed aggressive against Strasburg in the bottom of the third … with the exception of Ryan Dempster. Geovany Soto popped up the first pitch to short. Dempster at least saw five pitches before breaking his bat and tapping back to Strasburg.

David DeJesus recorded his first hit as a Cub. DeJesus lined Strasburg’s first pitch into center. Darwin Barney grounded out to third (2-1 pitch) to end the inning.

The Nationals did nothing against Dempster in the fourth. Dempster put together his best inning of the game to that point. Dempster struck out two of the three batters he faced and retired Mark DeRosa on one pitch.

After Castro grounded out to short to start the fourth, Alfonso Soriano ripped a single into center on the first pitch. Strasburg jammed Stewart on a 1-0 pitch. Stewart got just enough of the ball to put it in play. Wilson Ramos picked up the swinging bunt and tried to throw out Soriano at second. Ramos’ throw was off the mark and to the first base side of second. Soriano was safe and the Cubs took advantage of the extra out the Nationals gave them.

On a 2-1 pitch to Jeff Baker, Alfonso Soriano took off for third. Ramos’ throw was on time but it took an excellent pick by Ryan Zimmerman to catch Soriano at third. Stewart held at first. Jeff Baker worked a two-out walk.

With runners on first and second with two down, Marlon Byrd blooped a 0-1 pitch down the left field line. Stewart scored, 1-0 Cubs. Baker held at second on the single and was stranded when Soto lined out to third (2-1 pitch) for the third out.

Ryan Dempster sat down the Nationals in order in the fifth … and after five, Dempster had thrown 71 pitches, 46 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing against Strasburg in the home half of the fifth.

Dempster struck out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth … Dempster’s pitch count stood at 80, 53 for strikes after six.

Strasburg also struck out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth.

Ryan Dempster stayed in and started the seventh. Dempster retired Washington in order. At that point, Dempster had retired 14 in a row and had thrown 92 pitches, 62 for strikes.

Jeff Baker was given a hit on what should have been an error to start the bottom of the seventh. Baker pulled a 1-1 pitch weakly to the hole at short. Desmond fielded the ball but threw wide to first (right field side). Baker was quickly erased when Byrd grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Soto squared up a 1-2 pitch that ended up as a routine fly to left for the third out.

With the Cubs up 1-0, Dempster started the eighth and struck out Chad Tracy swinging (3-2 pitch) to start the inning. Ian Desmond hit the first pitch toward the hole at second. Jeff Baker let the ball roll past him. Barney could not get to the ball and the Nationals had their second hit of the game … and broke a string of 15 in a row sat down by Dempster.

Dempster re-focused and struck out Danny Espinosa swinging (2-2 pitch) on a nasty slider in the dirt. Dale Sveum made the slow walk and brought in Kerry Wood to face Ryan Zimmerman.

Wood jumped ahead of Zimmerman 1-2. Ian Desmond broke for second on the 1-2 offering and swiped second. Wood issued two more out of the zone and walked Zimmerman. The first pitch to LaRoche was high and tight and got away from Soto. Both runners advanced with two outs. LaRoche worked the count to 3-2 and took a very close pitch for ball four to load the bases.

Jayson Werth stepped in 0-for-7 in his career against Kerry Wood. Wood jumped out 0-2 but did not get the call on the next pitch. Wood ended up walking Werth and forcing in Desmond with the tying run.

Mark DeRosa grounded out to Darwin Barney (1-2 pitch) to end the inning … but the Nationals tied the run on a bad defensive play and three straight walks.

Chad Tracy stuck it to the Cubs once again. Carlos Marmol retired Roger Bernadina and Wilson Ramos to start the ninth. Tracy stepped in and hit a 2-2 pitch off the wall in right … the first extra basehit of the game. Brett Carroll ran for Tracy and scored on a single to right off the bat of Ian Desmond. Just the fourth hit of the game by the Nationals. Espinosa flied out to left to end the inning.

The Cubs had to face an old nemesis in the ninth … and Brad Lidge did what he has always done against the Cubs, he closed out the game.

Ian Stewart lifted a 1-0 pitch to right that just missed landing in the basket in right. Stewart ended up at third with a one-out triple. Sveum sent Joe Mather into run for Stewart. Jeff Baker put the first pitch into play. But the routine grounder ended up in Ryan Zimmerman’s glove. Mather broke on contact and was an easy out at the plate. Marlon Byrd looked at a 3-2 pitch for strike three to end the game.

Dale Sveum’s team played a better game than the end result. The ‘little things‘ still have a long way to go with this group of players.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Friday is an off day for the Chicago Cubs … the season resumes Saturday with Matt Garza taking on Gio Gonzalez.

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver