Sunday, April 5, 2015

Waino, Cards spoil Lester's Cubs debut

Matt Holliday hit a pair of RBI singles to back Adam Wainwrightand lead the Cardinals to a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in the opening game of the 2015 Major League Baseball season on Sunday night, spoiling the Wrigley Field debuts of manager Joe Maddon and lefty Jon Lester.
Wainwright, making his fourth career Opening Day start, struck out six over six innings. He's now 9-1 in 20 games at Wrigley.
Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, struck out six and scattered eight hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Dazzling debut: Jason Heyward jump-started his Cardinals career with three hits -- two of which went for extra bases -- in his first three at-bats with his new club. He doubled and scored the team's first run of the season in the opening frame, helped execute a double steal in the fifth and was part of a top-third of a batting order that went 7-for-14 with two runs and three RBIs. It was Heyward's first three-hit game off a lefty since June 22, 2012 -- also against Lester.
Damage control: Given an early one-run lead, Wainwright fell into quick trouble, as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first with a double. But Wainwright answered back, freezing three-hole hitter Anthony Rizzo on an 84-mph cutter after Fowler moved to third, then inducing an inning-ending groundout. That would be the first of several jams Wainwright escaped. Though he allowed the leadoff batter to reach in four of six innings, he held the Cubs hitless in 11 chances with runners in scoring position. Three times he stranded a runner at third.
Lester finds comfort zone too late: Lester had faced the Cardinals once in the regular season prior to Sunday's game but did have the edge in postseason play. He went 2-0 in two World Series starts, holding St. Louis to one run over 15 1/3 innings. Maddon wanted him matched up with his former Red Sox catcher David Ross in hopes of making him feel comfortable in his first Cubs start, and Lester did seem to get in a better rhythm as the game progressed.
"Opening Day is wonderful. It's tradition, it's a holiday, it's a celebration, it's special for everyone in baseball whether you're a casual fan, a diehard fan, you work in the game, but it does have this sort of exaggerated effect. People extrapolate these conclusions from one game. I really enjoy Game 2. You can get into a good rhythm. To me, one of the best parts about baseball is the rhythm of the game, the daily routine, knowing there's a game tomorrow, the next day and the next day. Opening Day doesn't feel like that, it feels like a holiday. I like to see which fans are at Game 2." -- Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations
Fowler is the Cubs' third Opening Day leadoff man in the last four seasons and fifth in the last six openers. Ryan Theriot led off in 2010, Kosuke Fukudome in 2011, David DeJesus in 2012-13 and Emilio Bonifacio in 2014.
With his start on Sunday, Yadier Molina became the first catcher in Cardinals history to make 11 consecutive Opening Day starts. The last Cards player to to start on Opening Day in that many consecutive years was Albert Pujols(2001-11).
In 2014, the Cubs ranked 14th in the National League in batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .223. On Sunday they went 0-for-13 with RISP.
Lester was the first Cubs pitcher to bat eighth since Jeff Samardzija on Sept. 8, 2012, at Pittsburgh. Sunday was only the second time a Cubs pitcher did so in 15,848 games from 1914 to 2014.
After leading all NL teams with 27 stolen bases in spring games, the Cardinals continued their running ways with three off Lester and another against Hector Rondon in the ninth. It surely helped that Lester struggles to hold runners, but manager Mike Matheny has pushed his club to be more aggressive in general. Under Matheny the Cardinals have never finished better than 13th in the league in stolen bases. Last year they swiped 57; they hadn't stolen four in a game since 2012.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will hold a short workout at Wrigley Field on Monday morning before resuming their three-game series at Wrigley Field at 7:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Lance Lynn, a 15-game winner for the Cardinals in 2014, draws his first regular-season start since inking a three-year extension with the club. His six career wins against the Cubs are tied for the most against any opponent.
Cubs: After an off-day on Monday, the Cubs and Cardinals resume the series on Tuesday. Right-hander Jake Arrieta will make his first start following a strong spring. He has a career 2-0 record and 0.92 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals. The game will be broadcast on WGN-TV and WBBM Radio, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.