Game One – Cubs 4 Astros 2
WP – Carlos Zambrano (1-0) LP – Roy Oswalt (0-1) Save – Kevin Gregg (1)
For the first time under Lou Piniella, the Cubs won on Opening Day. Alfonso Soriano set the tone on the second pitch of the season by Roy Oswalt. Soriano launched the 50th leadoff home run of his career on a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left center.
Aramis Ramirez gave his team a 2-0 lead in the second with the 250th home run of his career. Ramirez hit a no-doubter into the Crawford Boxes in left. The home runs by the Cubs’ big bats gave Carlos Zambrano some breathing room. Big Z, with help from his defense and a couple of miscues by the Astros, took care of the rest.
Carlos Zambrano posted his first career victory on Opening Day with six innings of shutout ball. The lone run Zambrano was charged with came after he departed…a swinging bunt off the bat of Michael Bourn that plated Miguel Tejada. In six-plus innings Zambrano allowed one run on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
The Cubs tacked on to the their lead with a manufactured run in the fourth inning. Mike Fontenot (3-for-4 with two runs scored) led off the inning with a double off the wall in left. Geovany Soto grounded out to first, but the productive out advanced Fontenot to third with one out. Ryan Theriot followed with a sacrifice fly to right.
Micah Hoffpauir came off the bench and added a pinch-hit, 2-out RBI single in the ninth.
Derrek Lee and Milton Bradley were a combined 0-for-7 with a walk but both turned in solid games defensively.
Aaron Heilman allowed the inherited run to score but he threw the ball well. Heilman came in with runners on first and second with no outs in the seventh and the Cubs up by a score of 3-0. Heilman threw one pitch to Hunter Pence that resulted in a 6-4-3 double play.
Kevin Gregg allowed the Astros second run in the ninth. While it was far from a perfect inning, Gregg picked up the save in his Cub debut.
One win does not make a season…but it is a good way to start a 162-game campaign. Carlos Zambrano threw the ball extremely well on Monday night. He found a groove early and worked extremely fast. As with most of Zambrano’s outings, at times he appeared like he was going to lose it…but Geovany Soto did a good job with calming his pitcher down and keeping him focused.
Soto was only 1-for-4 in the game but his defense was excellent. He kept everything in front of him and even threw out Miguel Tejada trying to advance from first on a pitch in the dirt to start the second inning.
After Soto threw out Tejada, Carlos Zambrano seemed to relax and just pitch. He allowed a couple of cheap hits in the third but struck out Ivan Rodriguez with the tying runs on base…and then he induced a ground ball to second off of Lance Berkman to end the inning.
Zambrano retired the Astros in order in the fourth and fifth. The only baserunner he allowed after a bloop single by Kaz Matsui in the third was a 2-out walk by Lance Berkman in the sixth…at one point Zambrano struck out five of seven batters he faced.
Carlos Marmol walked Lance Berkman with two outs in the eighth…but Senor Nasty made Carlos Lee buckle his knees a batter before. Marmol’s slider was back to it’s devastating self on Monday night.
Milton Bradley turned his ankle in the seventh inning. Kaz Matsui took a bloop single away from Bradley with an excellent catch in shallow right. Bradley appeared to be watching the play and stepped awkwardly on the corner of the bag. Bradley stayed in the game and almost made an excellent catch in the ninth.
Nothing is won, lost or proven in the first game of the season. However, the additions of Aaron Heilman, Milton Bradley, Kevin Gregg and Joey Gathright help notch the first win of the year.
Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Wandy Rodriquez on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.