ST. LOUIS, MO – The Chicago Cubs kicked off their 2017 season, and their World Series Championship title defense against the rival St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night at Busch Stadium.
The Cubs opened the season with a lineup that featured Jason Heyward in center field, Ben Zobrist in right field, and Javier Baez at second base giving both Baez and Zobrist the start on opening night. Even with all of their stars from the 2016 World Series team (minus Dexter Fowler of course) in the lineup tonight, there wasn’t much that the Cubs could do to generate any offense against Cardinals starter, Carlos Martinez.
Martinez was brilliant on the evening, holding Cubs hitters to only six hits over the course of his 7.1 innings pitched before he was removed in favor of Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh.
The Cardinals would take a 1-0 lead into that eight inning, on the strength of a Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly in the third inning, that scored none other than, former Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler. After allowing back-to-back base-hits to Willson Contreras and Javier Baez, Martinez was lifted for Hwan Oh, ending his evening with a line of 7.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 10 K, 0 BB.
After Hwan Oh issued a walk to Kyle Schwarber to load the bases for the Cubs, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were unsuccessful in their bid to get the Cubs on the board, with both of the sluggers flying out to Cardinals right-fielder, Steven Piscotty to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eight inning the Cardinals would add on to their lead, when Randal Grichuk took reliever Pedro Strop deep over the right field fence in the pouring rain. The homer was of the two-run variety, after Steven Piscotty led off the inning with a walk, pushing the St. Louis lead to 3-0.
In the top of the ninth inning the Cubs would finally crack the score column, after Hwan Oh hit Ben Zobrist with an 0-2 offering, and allowed an infield single to Jason Heyward on a bad play by Matt Carpenter to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Willson Contreras. Contreras would deliver, hitting an absolute bomb into the seats in left field, tying the ballgame at three-a-piece.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cardinals outfielder Jose Martinez, a pinch-hitter in the ballgame, doubled on a deep fly ball into the right-center field gap, setting himself up as the winning run with only one out. Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery after walking Yadier Molina intentionally, worked his way into a full-count on Cardinals second-baseman Kolten Wong before walking him as well to load the bases with two outs.
Randal Grichuk, who homered in the eighth inning, drove a deep fly-ball into the left field gap, walking off for the Cardinals victory on opening night in St. Louis, by a score of 4-3.
Kyle Schwarber: 2-3, 2B, BB
Jon Lester: 5 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 7 K, 2 BB
Willson Contreras: 2-4, HR, 3 RBI
Carlos Martinez: 7.1 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 10 K, 0 BB
Randal Grichuk: 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, Walk Off Single in bottom of the 9th.
Kyle Schwarber turned in a solid evening in his first regular season appearance in nearly a year, collecting a pair of hits and a walk on the night, and was the only Cubs hitter to reach base safely three times in the game. Jon Lester, despite being on the hook for his first loss of the season, turned in five solid innings while striking out seven Cardinals hitters, and walking a pair.
Willson Contreras started the game 0-2, before singling in the top of the eighth inning to start the best scoring opportunity to that point in the game, and then spoiled the night of every Cardinals fan in the ballpark by sending a deep three-run home run into the left field seats in the top of the ninth inning, tying the game at 3-3.
Despite the opening night loss, there weren’t too many negatives on either side, outside of Pedro Strop giving up the two-run home run to Grichuk in the bottom of the eighth inning. To make matters worse, he home run came on a 0-2 count, to a player who has struggled mightily with his strikeout rate to this point in his career.
The Cubs and Cardinals will continue their opening series on Tuesday evening at Busch Stadium. The Cubs will send 2015 Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta to the hill in game two of the series to oppose the Cardinals game two starter, Adam Wainwright.
First Pitch: 7:15 pm (CT)
TV: CSN-Chicago, MLB Network
Radio: WSCR 670AM