Samardzija Fools the Pirates on Opening Day – Cubs 3, Pirates 1

Game One – Cubs 3, Pirates 1

WP – Jeff Samardzija (1-0) LP – A.J. Burnett (0-1) Save – Kyuji Fujikawa (1)

wflag-pubThe Cubs started the 2013 season on a positive note with a 3-1 victory over the Pirates on Monday afternoon, the first win on Opening Day for the Cubs since 2009.

Jeff Samardzija dominated the Pirates over eight shutout innings. Samardzija settled down after the opening inning and allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out nine batters. Samardzija kept the Pirates guessing all afternoon as the Battin’ Bucs made very little solid contact. Just as impressive as the nine strikeouts was that Samardzija recorded 13 groundball outs … and not a single flyball out. Samardzija retired 14 in a row at one point and 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.

Jeff Samardzija’s final line: no runs on two hits with a walk and nine strikeouts on 110 pitches, 71 for strikes … Monday’s performance was very similar to Samardzija’s first start a year ago.

Carlos Marmol started the ninth but was pulled before he could record three outs and a save. Marmol gave up a run on one hit, a walk and a hit batsman after striking out the first batter he faced. James Russell replaced Marmol with the tying run on first base and one down. Russell retired Neil Walker and Dale Sveum brought in Kyuji Fujikawa to get the 27th out. Russell Martin popped Fujikawa’s second pitch into center to end the game.

The Cubs’ offense did just enough against A.J. Burnett and the Pirates’ staff. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI) crushed the first pitch he saw from A.J. Burnett in the opening inning and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Rizzo’s bomb traveled an estimated 438 feet … his first homer in a Cubs’ uniform this year.

Starlin Castro (2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base) was on board for Rizzo’s longball while Welington Castillo (2-for-4 with two doubles and a RBI) doubled in Nate Schierholtz (1-for-2 with a run scored, a walk, a hit by pitch and a stolen base) with the Cubs’ third run in the sixth inning. Schierholtz reached base in all four plate appearances.

A.J. Burnett became the first Pirates’ Opening Day starter since John Candelaria in 1983 to strike out 10 batters on Opening Day. The Cubs made Burnett work, knocked him out in the sixth inning after throwing 98 pitches, 61 for strikes. The Cubs struck out 15 times on Monday afternoon.

Outside of an error by Brent Lillibridge in the first inning, the Cubs defense was very good. Starlin Castro made several difficult plays look routine and Anthony Rizzo took a hit away from Neil Walker in the seventh with an excellent scoop and throw … probably the hardest hit ball all afternoon off Samardzija. Lillibridge made an outstanding diving stop in the sixth inning that took a hit away from Garrett Jones.

It is always good to see the Cubs win on Opening Day.

The Cubs jumped on A.J. Burnett in the first inning. Starlin Castro notched the Cubs first hit, a single to left center, after DeJesus looked at a 2-2 pitch for the first out. Anthony Rizzo stepped in and crushed Burnett’s first pitch. The ball ended up well beyond the right center field wall and traveled an estimated 438 feet. With the Cubs up 2-0, Soriano grounded out to Walker for the second out. Nate Schierholtz singled to left center (0-1 pitch) before Welington Castillo grounded out to first for the third out.

Jeff Samardzija was obviously amped in the first inning. Samardzija was overthrowing, and walked Starling Marte. Garrett Jones then hit a grounder to Lillibridge in the shift that should have been converted into at least one out. Lillibridge bobbled the ball and the Pirates had runners on first and second with no outs.

Andrew McCutchen grounded a 2-1 pitch toward third. Valbuena fielded and threw to second to force Jones. Lillibridge’s throw to Rizzo was late and low. With runners on first and third with one down, Samardzija struck out Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez swinging to end the inning. Samardzija threw 22 pitches in the first, 12 for strikes.

Both pitchers settled in after the first inning. Burnett recorded eight straight outs via a strikeout and Samardzija retired the side in order in the third. After three, Samardzija’s pitch count was at a respectable 51 pitches, 34 for counts.

The Cubs squandered a golden opportunity to tack on in the fourth. Nate Schierholtz walked to start the fourth (3-2 pitch). Welington Castillo just missed a home run and had to settle for a double off the wall in right. With runners on second and third and no outs, the Cubs could not make any contact. Burnett struck out both Valbuena and Lillibridge swinging … eight straight outs recorded by Burnett via a strikeout. Jeff Samardzija grounded a 2-0 pitch to Alvarez at third to end the inning. Burnett threw 75 pitches over the first four innings, 47 for strikes.

Jeff Samardzija retired the side in order in the fourth … 63 pitches, 41 for strikes.

The Cubs tacked on in the sixth and knocked Burnett out of the game. Soriano tapped back to Burnett for the first out. Burnett then plunked Nate Schierholtz on a 1-2 pitch in his right leg. Schierholtz took off for second on a 2-1 pitch to Welington Castillo, the second hit and run called by Sveum with the same combination. Castillo drove the 2-1 pitch into the gap in right center. The ball one hopped the wall, Schierholtz scored before Castillo was caught in between second and third in a rundown. Castillo was eventually tagged out. Clint Hurdle made the slow walk with the Cubs up 3-0 and went to his pen for lefty Justin Wilson. Valbuena popped out to center (3-2 pitch) to end the inning.

The Cubs were unable to add on in the seventh and eighth against the Pirates’ pen while Samardzija was busy putting zeros up on the board.

Nate Schierholtz ended up a second in the ninth after he reached on an error and swiped second base … but the Cubs were not able to plate the run. The game went to the bottom of the ninth with the Cubs up 3-0.

Carlos Marmol took over in the ninth and could not get the job done. Marmol was able to get Garrett Jones to chase on a 3-2 pitch for the first out. Marmol then hit Andrew McCutchen on a 1-0 pitch. McCutchen stole second on a 1-0 pitch to Alvarez. Pedro Alvarez drove the next pitch into center. McCutchen scored, 3-1 Cubs. Sveum left Marmol in as James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa warmed up in the pen.

Marmol walked Gaby Sanchez to put the tying run at first. As Josh Harrison replaced Sanchez at first, Sveum made the slow walk and went to his pen for James Russell. The move turned Neil Walker around. Walker flied out to right (2-2 pitch) for the second out. Sveum went back to his pen for Kyuji Fujikawa.

Russell Martin popped Fujikawa’s second pitch into center. As Fujikawa pumped his fist, David DeJesus hauled it in … game over.

Tuesday is an off day for the Cubs, one of only two over the first five weeks of the season. The season resumes on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, Edwin Jackson against Wandy Rodriguez.

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"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein
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  • triple

    Well watching Marmol try to be a closer is just horrific. They should just promote him to garbage man! Fujikawa showed good poise coming in in a tough spot to make his first MLB appearance and got the job done. I know it’s short sample on his part, but I’ve seen enough to feel more confident as him as our closer. Bring Marmol in in the 6th inning when needed.

    Besides the Lillibridge error, Castillo baserunning blunder, and Marmol’s problems, I’d say they played a pretty solid game. And man that was nice to see Rizzo drive that ball on the first pitch!

    • Ripsnorter1

      The Tiger scouts watched Marmol this afternoon and said, “We’ve just got to have this guy to be our closer!!”

      NOT!

      FORGETABOUTIT!

      • triple

        You are so right… what very little trade value Marmol possessed just went right out the window today. Maybe it’s too early and he straightens his stuff out, but at this point I’m looking forward to Marmol not even being traded away at the end of July, and for Jed to cut him a $3.25M check and tell him to pack his bags, and let’s see what one of our prospects can do.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Jed cut him a check and cut him?

          I dunno. Have you checked out our AAA roster? I don’t think we’re going to profit with Casey Coleman, Caridad, Raley, Struck, Dolis, Parker, Wade, Putman, Chapman, or Carpenter on our MLB staff. The only two I think might help us are Rusin and Loux–and they might not be ready at all for 2013.

          I think you’d better pray we don’t need to call anyone up this year.

          • calicub

            I like what Chapman did last year in his small sample size last year. I think he might do well

          • triple

            I’m not saying cut him now. If they can’t trade him and the deadline passes ($3.25 would be the last 3rd of his contract), what purpose does he serve the Cubs while blocking someone in need of experience by that point?

      • 07GreyDigger

        I can see someone trading for him. There’s something about having closing experience that gives you magic powers. See Heath Bell, Huston Street, Jose Valverde and Frank Francisco.

  • Tom U
  • John G

    The W looks good on you Neil.
    The first place Chicago Cubs.
    It’s got a nice ring to it. Too bad it won’t last long

  • Tom U
    • Tony_Hall

      Thanks for posting these as they come out!

      • Tom U

        The “Tennessee Browns ” said they will post tomorrow.

        • Tony_Hall

          I have to say, they got me with that one.

  • Tony_Hall

    What a great way to start the season. Samardzija pitched like an ace, and Rizzo hit like a 3 hole hitter.

    Marmol…enough said. I know most everyone is tired of seeing him, but they are just not going to cut him, because he struggled in game 1….but I was calling (yelling) for Fujikawa all the way.

    • DWalker

      I figure they will run him out fairly often over the next few weeks, and if he doesn’t start performing he will have a minor muscle strain requiring rehab in the minors, bring him back for a few weeks and if he still can’t perform finally cut him. I figure by the deadline, he’s traded, performing or cut. if he’s not performing, hes gone at that point. even if he is performing, he might still be untradable, but they might keep him at that point. Once he gets past the trade deadline though, hes entirely expendable. The only reason hes out there now is to see if he can perform enough to get a prospect or two back at the deadline. Heck, if they can get two low minor but still interesting prospects for Campana, anything is possible.

  • Tony_Hall

    Just to show you that the baseball gods rule the game….Lillibridge gets tested immediately and make 50% of the errors that Barney did all of last year…in the 1st inning.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree, but not so much the baseball gods but the
      talent of Lillibridge at second base, and at bat for that matter. I dont think it makes any difference, he dosent seem to have it to play everyday.
      A whole lot thats missing, range, timing,and the hands to compete there.
      I hope Barney’s not out too long, that first inning and his play could have resulted in a big inning.
      He didn’t look that good at the plate either, still a long way for the Cubs to go with a bench.
      didn’t get to watch the game until very late (taped)
      but it was a great one for the Shark, he pitched well.
      Marmol,,,well, no comment.

  • Tony_Hall

    It was a cold day in Pittsburgh, yet Rizzo drove it out like it was middle of summer.

    Just how far would that ball have carried in July!

  • GaryLeeT

    I wonder how patient Sveum will be with Soriano batting 4th. He had an unimpressive spring, and his bat definitely looked a year older. Maybe Schierholtz 2nd then Castro, Rizzo, and Castillo?

    • SuzyS

      Remember, Soriano has always been a slow starter.

      • GaryLeeT

        I suppose, but if that is a given, why not move him to cleanup in May? In the post PED era, odds are, his numbers will decrease.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Soriano hit his first HR in 2012 on May 15 off of Jason Motte, with the Cubs trailing in the top of the 9th in St. Louis to tie the game. Mr. Rafael Dolis, however, found a way to lose the game in the bottom of the 9th.

          My point: he’s a slow starter. Don’t sweat it.

          • GaryLeeT

            My point was, that except for 2012, he’s hasn’t been.

          • Ray Ray

            Are you serious? You are saying to move him after 1 game? Wow! Tough crowd!

        • triple

          Maybe Svuem will replace his bats with ones that are yet another ounce lighter…. I’m not very worried about Soriano though. As long as he’s healthy I think he will produce 25-30HR’s and 80-100RBI’s.

          • GaryLeeT

            As long as bodies don’t age. I guess that’s true.

    • Tony_Hall

      Suzy is right, but I do think that if someone else is hitting, and someone else is not, they will adjust the lineup.

  • Ripsnorter1

    The Pirates have the mistaken notion that you can win without hitting. HA!

  • triple

    The big positive that I see out of the 9th inning of today’s game is that Svuem didn’t waste time and wasn’t gonna let this game get away from the Cubs. Because this is the prototypical 9th inning we fans have grown accustomed to over the last 3-4 years where a starting pitcher throws a great game, is in line for the W, and then when Marmol struggles, the coach leaves him in there for the wolves to feed on him. And then the team morale is real low and they get pounded the next day. I’m really glad they avoided that because they did deserve that win, as it’s victory’s like today that can help to change that “culture” that some people talk about.

    Also, I noticed this spring that it seemed like the Cubs always came out scoring runs in the 1st inning. It was nice to see that happen again today. Hopefully this is the beginning of a nice trend, as it sure would make it a little easier for our pitching staff to get to pitch with a lead and be aggressive instead of nibbling and fearing mistakes.