It wasn't pretty
But an Opening Day win?
A beautiful thing
On Monday, the Cubs started what promises to be another mediocre-at-best season by beating the Pirates 3-1, allowing the north siders to spend at least one day atop the National League Central Division. Yes, the Cubs are in first place.
But it wasn't pretty.
The Cubs took an early lead on Anthony Rizzo's 2-run homer in the top of the first. But a Brent Lillibridge error in the bottom of the inning, on what should have been a double play, gave the Pirates an early chance with two on and nobody out. With Darwin Barney headed for the disabled list due to a gash on his knee, there's going to be something lacking at second base for a while.
But some good pitching by Jeff Samardzija (9 strikouts, 1 walk and just 2 hits in 8 innings) kept the Pirates at bay.
Of course, the Cubs weren't all that good on offense. After the 2-run first inning, the Cubs managed just 3 hits and struck out 10 times before A.J. Burnett was pulled in the sixth. And they were hitless against the Pirates bullpen, managing just one baserunner on a ninth-inning Pirates error. The only threat the Cubs mounted before scoring an insurance run in the sixth was when Welington Castillo doubled, sending Nate Schierholtz to third with nobody out in the 4th. But 2 stike outs (Valbuena and Lillibridge) followed by Samardzija's grounder ended that scoring chance. The 6th inning run scored on Castillo's second double of the afternoon, but the Cubs catcher committed a TOOTBLAN, getting caught between 2nd and 3rd after Schierholtz scored.
And then, an all-too typical Carlos Marmol save attempt ... strike out, hit by pitch, stolen base, RBI single, walk ... before Dale Sveum
brought in James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa (each facing one batter) to mop up Marmol's mess.
In the end, the Cubs won on Opening Day, and that's certainly a beautiful thing.