It was a crazy day at Wrigley/ Pistol Pete and I were on the 8o’clock train into the city. After a few beers, I headed toward the Ernie Banks statue dedication, which was amazing. I got to go into the VIP section and got tons of pictures of Ernie, Ronnie, Billy, Fergie, different politicians and many others. As soon as I figure out how to upload pictures into this, I will. My buddy Bandastic and I headed into the game, hoping for a Cubs victory. The field looked great, and the new drainage system was amazing. After a couple of rain delays, the game got under way. Big Z was in control for most of the game, keeping Milwaukee off balance. Zambrano went 6 2/3 innings, giving up only three hits and one walk, with five strikeouts. Bill Hall hit a double off Z with one out in the sixth, but Z was able to pick him off for the second out. Mark O’Neil came out of the dugout and Z had to leave with forearm cramps. What did Z say about the cramping?
“Drink water,” Zambrano said
Thank you Dr. Zambrano. How long have we been dealing with this? And he still doesn’t know to drink water? Are you kidding me?
Offensively, the Cubs continued their struggles. The top two batters, Theriot and Soriano, were god awful, going a combined 0-10. That isn’t going to get it done. Lee went 1-5, Ramirez went 0-3 with a walk, DeRosa was 0-3, Soto was 02, but drew two walks. Milwaukee starter Ben Sheets was able to go 6 1/3 innings and only gave up two hits and two walks with seven strike outs. The only person to get a hit off Sheets was new right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, who went 3-for-3 with a walk in his Cubs debut. There was no score going into the ninth inning when Lou called upon his new closer, Kerry Wood, to pitch the ninth. He hit the first batter he faced, the speedy Ricky Weeks. Tony Gwyn Jr hit a sacrifice bunt to move Weeks to second, and the Cubs decided to intentionally walk Prince Fielder. Wood threw a pitch that shattered Ryan Braun’s bat, but he was able to muscle it to left, scoring Weeks. Corey Hart then cleared the bases with a double, and the Cubs were down 3-0. In came Milwaukee’s closer, Eric “HGH” Gagne. Gange gave up a single to Lee. Ramirez walked, and then Fukudome hit a three run homer to tie the game.
The place went bannanas. The fans were cheering ***-U-Dome, until he came out and took his curtain call. I had a feeling this could be like 1969 all over again. To refresh your Cubbie history, in the first game of the 1969 season, the Cubs opened against the Phillies and were trailing 6-5 with one out when Willie Smith hit a two run homer in the eleventh. I thought this would be like that game, but Bob Howry gave up a leadoff double in the eleventh to Craig Counsell, who advanced to third on a Jason Kendall bunt, and then scored on a Tony Geyn Jr sac fly. Cubs lose 4-3 and Cubs fans leave with a heavy heat.
I know it is only one game. I know that there are 161 games left. I know pennants aren’t won in April, but I was hoping the Cubs would make a statement in this first game. Last season, 2007, started with a lot of one run losses and blown saves. I was hoping the Cubs would come out on fire, and instead watched two of their three closer candidates, Wood and Howry, stink it up. (the other closer candidate, Marmol, pitched great today).
“What can I do? I just have to get him sharp, and the only way you’re going to do that is by using him,” Piniella said of Howry, who hasn’t gotten off to good starts in the past. The right-hander said that wasn’t the problem.”
The Cubs have an off day tomorrow. Hopefully they can come back and play better on Wednesday, the second game of the series.