Whew. It’s nice to win on Opening Day.
Jeff Samardzija was simply absurd today. Amped up and clearly overthrowing in the first, Samardzija settled down, and then grooved the Pirates all day long. Carlos Marmol did as Carlos Marmol does in the 9th, and actually got himself yanked from a three-run save opportunity after having no idea where the ball was going (except for the well-struck RBI single he gave up). In the span of just 19 pitches (10 balls), he (1) made himself completely untradable; and (2) made it very easy to forget just how good he was from late-May on last year. Fortunately James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa stemmed the bleeding by simply throwing strikes and letting the Pirates hit the ball. Imagine that.
The Cubs’ big damage came in the first after Starlin Castro singled on a ball he had no business getting good wood on (it’s what he does), and Anthony Rizzo hit a 450+ foot bomb on the first pitch he saw (it’s what he does/RizzOMG). If you’re looking for the upside in the 2013 Chicago Cubs’ offense, that’s it right there.
Welington Castillo twice doubled to right field on a hit and run with Nate Schierholtz going in front of him. The first time, Schierholtz was held at third, and was stranded when Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge struck out, and Jeff Samardzija grounded out. The second time around, the Cubs didn’t make that mistake, sending Schierholtz, who scored on the double. Castillo, however, was caught in a rundown when he tried to stretch his double into a 2.5-bagger, a mythical type of hit that doesn’t actually exist – it’s one or the other, Welly.
Nate Schierholtz reached based all four times he was up today, and he did it in four different ways: a walk, a HBP, a single, and an error. Brent Lillibridge had an inauspicious debut as Darwin Barney’s replacement: three strikeouts in three at bats, and a boot in the field. At least he did make one nice diving play.