Cubs Leave Opening Day in Scoring Position – Pirates 1, Cubs 0

Game One – Cubs 0, Pirates 1 – 10 innings

WP – Bryan Morris (1-0) LP – Carlos Villanueva (0-1) Save – None

Neil Walker provided the lone highlight of the day for either team with the first walk-off home run of his career. In front of a regular-season record crowd of 39,833 at PNC Park, Neil Walker led off the 10th inning and launched a 3-2 pitch from Carlos Villanueva over the 21-foot wall in right field for the game winner.

The Cubs had numerous opportunities to push runs across the plate. The Cubs put the leadoff runner on base in six of the 10 innings and had runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth and sixth innings. The Cubs finished the day 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

Emilio Bonifacio (4-for-5 with a double and a stolen base) recorded four of the Cubs’ six hits and the Cubs only extra basehit of the game. Bonifacio stole a base but was picked off first in the 10th inning after Clint Hurdle asked for a replay review and the call on the field was overturned. Nate Schierholtz (1-for-4) and Junior Lake (1-for-4 with a sac bunt) collected the Cubs other two hits. Pirates’ pitching struck out 11 batters on Monday and issued four walks.

Jeff Samardzija was very, very good on Monday afternoon. Samardzija struggled with his command a little early in the game before he settled in. Samardzija became the first Cubs’ starter since Lon Warneke (1933-34) to put together scoreless starts on consecutive Opening Days.

Jeff Samardzija gave up five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Samardzija threw 89 pitches, 54 for strikes and was the beneficiary of three double plays.

The Cubs’ pen limited the Pirates to one walk before the Walker blast off Villanueva in the 10th. Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and James Russell combined on the two hitless, scoreless innings.

Rick Renteria asked for the first review in the fifth inning after Samardzija bunted into a 1-5-3 double play. Samardzija made it a close call but it was not as close as the Cubs may have thought. Samardzija did a poor job of getting the bunt down and it could have cost him a run. The Cubs gave away too many outs on Monday with bunt attempts.

The Cubs defense had a good game. The team turned three double plays behind Samardzija over the first six innings of the game … Barney, Castro to Rizzo in the second, Bonifacio to Rizzo in the third and Castro to Rizzo in the sixth.

The Cubs lost the first game of the season and are 1-4 on Opening Day since 2010.

Tuesday is a scheduled off-day for the Cubs. The 2014 season resumes on Wednesday night (6:05pm CDT) in Pittsburgh. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to face Charlie Morton.

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Quote of the Day

"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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  • JasonOfTheBurbs

    tough start for RIzzo, especially after such a good, and under-the-radar, ST. Hopefully he bounces right back, and this just gets chalked up to “tough lefty on opening day” vs setting the tone for his season.

    • Tony_H

      I think it was just one game.

      • Larry Schwimmer

        “Rizzo went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He went 0-for-3 with men in scoring position, stranding four – an Achilles heel for him last year (.191 with men in scoring position).” The reality is he should earn the job of batting in clean-up position. I say, let him work out how to hit lefties and how to drive men in scoring position batting in the 6th or 7th position. Let someone else have a chance, meanwhile.

        • cubtex

          Just got home and watched his 1st 3 AB’s. Only word to describe is UGLY. The problem is this roster has nobody capable of hitting there.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          There’s nobody else that really deserves that spot though. He had a great spring and ran into a very tough left handed pitcher. He needs to work on hitting left handed pitching badly, but Liriano is a tough draw to go out and tune up on.

          • Larry Schwimmer

            I agree that Liriano is tough. But he’s a lefty. And, Rizzo has had too much trouble hitting lefties. Let him work his problems out in the no. 5, 6 or 7 position. I would have rather seen Riggiano in the #4 position against Liriano today. We can make all the excuses we want for Rizzo. But it’s time to try something new — not try the same thing (i.e. batting Rizzo #4 against lefties) and hope and pray that he’ll have different results.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            He has plenty of time to improve though. It was te first game against an ace. But I’d be all for letting Ruggiano bat 4 hole against lefties. Too bad he was hurt today.

          • cubtex

            And that is a lot of pressure hitting Olt in the middle too. Tough spot to start your mlb career

          • Tony_H

            So you would be happy if he batted 5th?

          • Larry Schwimmer

            Hi Tony, I wasn’t sure if you were talking to me or Cubtex. Because of the fact that the CUBS have no proven hitters that are consistent…there’s no harm in giving Olt a chance to bat 4 against a lefty. And, there’s nothing wrong with your suggestion…which is not subjecting Rizzo to a great lefty like Lirano. This CUB teams needs to find itself. That includes seeing who can hit in situational “run-scoring” spots. Not having the same guys who’ve shown they can’t — continue to placed in those roles.

          • Tony_H

            I was asking you if you would be happy if Rizzo batted 5th?

            I am not ready to right off Rizzo against LH’s and want him to start 80% of the time against LH’s and really don’t care if he bats 3rd/4th/5th etc against them unless we have players who show they should be there. Ruggiano is one, Lake is another (he is not a 2 hole hitter), Olt needs more time but should be able to bat 4th.

            I ultimately think Rizzo is more of a 5/6 hole hitter and as the Baez, Bryants etc come up, he will slot into a more appropriate slot.

            Either way, it was just 1 game against a very good LH starter. I am not about to make conclusions from today.

          • texcubnut

            Agree. No need to be prisoner of the moment.Give him a couple of weeks, 30 or 40 AB’s against right handed pitching, then see if a change in batting order is necessary. It’s a new year. Give him more than one game against a pitcher who was making everybody look bad. ( except Bonifacio)

          • Tony_H

            Liriano is beyond tough.

            Last year against LH Batters

            131 Avg
            175 OBP
            146 SLG
            28% K rate
            5% BB rate

            Ruggiano was not playing due to his ankle. I think Rizzo should be lower period, but it is not gonna happen until someone else shows they can bat there.

            I think Rizzo should sit against the Liriano’s of the world and play against most of the LH pitchers. This is the time for him to work on it.

          • J Daniel

            He already works on it! Often times many of us think it just comes down to working on something more … which is a great trait. But often times just not capable.

  • GaryLeeT

    So how do they do an ERA if pitcher gives up a run but doesn’t record an out in his first appearance of the year? ∞ ?

    • Tony_H

      Correct!

      Infinity and beyond!

  • Richard Hood

    Man and here I was hoping that this year would start off with a sweep of Pitt. LOL J/K

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  • GaryLeeT

    At least there is one upside to low expectations, I feel very little disappointment.

    • brent carmona

      LOL! Well played gary…

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    One game. Against one of the best left handed pitchers in the league. It is disappointing but we hung tough and Shark looked solid. Should have turned some heads of those potential trade candidates. He looked like a guy with business starting on opening day. Also, Bonifacio…well what do you say? But I think most of us expected he would have a really good year. Though again, one game does not a season make. Liriano will make better lineups than this look just as silly over the course of the season.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      It was one game, lost by one run in extra innings. Some really good pitching by our guys out there. Although, I don’t know what Renteria was thinking letting Russell face Martin. I almost wish he’d have gone yard so he’d have learned quick that he has no business facing a right handed bat.

      One game, one game…

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Justin Grimm came in during a tough spot and made some great pitches. I thought the game was gonna get blown open right there and he ended the inning.

    • Denver Mike

      Grimm started the 9th, and walked the lead off hitter. At that point I was expecting the worst, but he got a K on the next hitter and Russell got the next two. You are right on above, Russell got lucky with Martin. No business pitching to RH hitters.

      • cubtex

        Just going to say that

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Bonifacio. If he keeps anything close to this up he won’t be a Cub in August. One of those guys that is so fast he can get on base without making great contact. Infield hits, tiny bobble by a deep infielder. He puts a ton of pressure on a defense. But he needs to work on his leadoff at 1st base…obviously. Thrown out once and should have been twice. But that’s something that will be worked out after playing a bit more.

    • Craig York

      I really like him. Nice to have a true leadoff hitter

    • J Daniel

      Disagree, Board. I think he will be around and bridge the gap. Also, a super sub to have on a good team. Might be part of the future?

  • Denver Mike

    I’m glad I didn’t take the day off to watch the game, instead I recorded it and just avoided the score all day long. I watched it at 3x speed, and I’m pretty glad I did as it only took me about 55 minutes to watch the whole game. I probably missed some details but here are a few thoughts:

    Shark pitched behind just about every batter all day. After seeing almost every hitter go 1-0, I couldn’t believe when I looked in the 6th and he was at something like 65 pitches. The results today were good, but I can’t believe he’s going to be any different this year if he is pitching from behind all the time.

    I watched Castro, Olt, and Rizzo’s at bats at regular speed most of the game. Olt did strike out his first two trips to the plate, but he does look to be seeing the ball really well. During his first at bat he was ahead in the count, and Liriano threw a couple nasty pitches (changeups I think) right on the outside that were borderline to ring him up. Castro looks pretty healthy to me, and made some good plays in the field. And while it’s only one game, Rizzo looks just as confused against lefties as last year.

    Bonifacio could really change things for this offense this year if Renteria can find a 3,4,5 combo that can move him around the bases. Just like it was only one game in the case of Rizzo, the same applies here, but if healthy I think Bonifacio should be in the lineup 5 days a week.

    Wellington Castillo is probably sitting on a bag of ice right now, that ball caught him about as clean as it could have.

    Strop’s stuff is just nasty, when he can control it.

    Russell shouldn’t see another RH hitter again, ever.

    These are the kinds of games we lost last year, and need to win this year if we are going to markedly improve over last year’s record.

    Lastly, I am REALLY glad that spring is here, and the Cubs are back playing meaningful games. This season will be filled with many days like today, but hopefully there will be plenty of promising moments to banter about as well!

    • GaryLeeT

      Although I moved to the Orlando area a couple of years ago, I spent 20 years in SFLA. Bonifacio was a huge fan favorite when he played for the Marlins. It’s not hard to understand why.

  • Eugene Debs

    Yuck.

  • Jim Canavan

    Same lack of scoring position hitting like last year….

    • GaryLeeT

      SOSDY

  • GaryLeeT

    Just a comment on Renteria, and his first big league game as manager. I thought he did a pretty good job with his player moves, and getting the matchups you would want. I even liked him bringing in Villanueva in the 10th, because it looked like that this one might gone on for a while, and using your long man was the right call. However, I understand it was a scoreless game, and runs were at a premium, but I did not like a couple of his bunt calls. Especially whom he asked to lay them down.

    • Ripsnorter1

      As long as Renteria is giving up free outs by bunting men over, you can expect the Cubs to score fewer and fewer runs.

      • Tony_H

        Stop Bunting!

        Sorry, had a cool stop bunting logo but can’t get it to show up.

        • Ripsnorter1

          What’s with the bunting?

          Renteria must have attended the same managerial school as Dale Sveum.

          On the plus side, if Jim Bowden says that a last place finish is a good thing–to get that #1 pick in 2015–then this is certainly going to help.

          • Tony_H

            I am hoping it was just because of the game being 0-0 that he was bunting like that. Junior Lake should not be batting 2nd, but I will take my chances with Lake, Castro and Rizzo swinging away with no outs and Bonifacio on 2nd.

          • cubtex

            I am sure he was thinking 1 run could win the game. It did :)

          • Tony_H

            Not going to get into another bunting debate. I think they would have won the game 1-0 if they would have let Lake, Castro and Rizzo swing away.

          • cubtex

            I said I didn’t like having Lake bunt there. I would have had Rizzo bunt

          • Tony_H

            I thought you wanted Rizzo to bunt against Liriano,

            I am talking about when Lake had bunted when Bonifacio was on 2nd with no outs.

          • cubtex

            I was. I understand why Renteria did it but I would have let the 3 guys swing away. Looking back….Lake is not a good situational hitter(not a #2 hitter but they don’t have one. Kind of the theme of this lineup) Renteria obviously didn’t trust Lake to hit the ball on the right side to advance the runner. He knows Castro is one of the few guys on the team who will consistently put the bat on the ball. Felt with that combination and Bonifacio’s speed there was a very good chance to score the run. Unfortunately, this current roster will struggle to score runs against above average pitching all year. As I have been saying since day 1. You have no middle of the order bats. Rizzo and Olt are not high average guys and aren’t great hitters. They both have power but are not great hitters. I have a feeling Renteria will be putting Schierholtz back to 4 very soon since he gives you more of a consistent quality at bat than the others.

          • Tony_H

            Schieroltz does not have to go back to the 4 hole, he will be there against RH’s or 5th and Ruggiano will be there against LH’s or 5th.

            I believe Ruggiano would have played yesterday if not for his ankle and skipping yesterday gave him 3 days before the next LH.

            The rest of the lineup we all know not many players will stay in 3/4 or even 5 holes slots when guys like Baez, Bryant, etc come up. I believe Rizzo is more of a 5/6 guy, Castro 6/7. But just like every other team out there, they bat where they need to bat in the lineup. Not many teams, even the best teams, have perfect players for each lineup slot.

          • mutantbeast

            Castro doesnt drive the ball. Hes a #2 hitter and this team needs to learn that.

          • Eugene Debs

            Maybe our bunts would have worked had we had a cool bunting competition in Spring Training. I love knowing how our players stack up against the grounds crew and bullpen catchers.

          • cubtex

            I am a fan of bunting in certain situations. Should have had Rizzo bunt with 1st and 2nd and no outs. He wasn’t going to hit Em.

          • Tony_H

            I thought you would like this and don’t believe you have a BP subscription, so I just cut this out for you. Also, thought it was funny that when they talked about shifts and marginal hitters they chose Flaherty.

            6. Bunting to Beat the Shift
            I wrote about this at length last month, so click to read my full thoughts on the subject. Basically, it boils down to this: Teams are shifting more often; they’re shifting not only at higher rates against the usual slow-footed, southpaw sluggers who are classic shift candidates, but also against more marginal hitters whom they wouldn’t have bothered to defend before, down to and including Ryan Flaherty; the math suggests that it makes sense for an average hitter to attempt a bunt with third base open as long as he has a >=40 percent chance to get it down; and the more common the shift is, the more worthwhile it becomes for a hitter who hasn’t had to do it before to invest the time necessary to become a competent bunter (as extreme pull hitter Brandon Moss did this spring).

            More and more teams are getting on the defensive positioning bandwagon. At some point,the batters will strike back, using one of the only anti-shift tactics available. I’ll be tracking this throughout the season for any sign that hitters have had enough. —Ben Lindberg

  • mutantbeast

    Same Cubs as always. Cant hit with RISP, cant get runners home from 3rd with less than 2 outs and cant win close games. Hurry up Baez, Bryant , etc. We need to see some real talent here.

  • mutantbeast

    Its becoming plain Rizzo cant hit LHP with good breaking balls. Maybe we might need to keep Vogelbomb as a 1b for the long term.

    • Tony_H

      Not many LH hitters can, even the best LH hitters struggle against LHP with good breaking balls.

  • mutantbeast

    Board, if the Cubs know Rizzo struggles against a LHP like a Liriano, then they need to sit him.

  • mutantbeast

    Agree its only one game Board, but the problem I have is the same mistakes Ive been seeing, particulary the inability to execute small ball. The inability to hit flyballs rather than weak grounders, popups or strikeouts with men on 3rd and less than 2 outs. Getting picked off base. Those things are still happening.

    • Tony_H

      Yes sir, and a Cardinals OF dropped a fly ball yesterday. And before Alex Gonzalez won the game for the Tigers with a single, he botted a ground ball his right for an error.

      That’s baseball.