The Chicago Cubs aren’t used to two things that happened on Opening Day in Pittsburgh: winning and solid starting pitching. Chicago got both on Monday as Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija went eight full innings, fanning nine on the way to the Cubs 3-1 victory over the Pirates. Things got stereotypically close in the ninth, but the Cubs were able to shake off a rough relief appearance by Carlos Marmol to come out with the win.
Chicago got a boost from Anthony Rizzo, their young first base sensation, as he got the Cubs on the board early with a two-run home run in the top of the first that scored Starlin Castro, and Chicago picked up another run in sixth when Welington Castillo hit an RBI double that scored Nate Schierholtz. But the shining star of the Cubs first Opening Day win since 2009, was starter Jeff Samardzija.
The Cubs are hoping that Samardzijda can develop into the ace of their staff, and he looked the part against the Pirates on Monday. Samardzija went eight full innings and probably would have been able to go the distance had it not been for the fact that his Opening Day pitch count wouldn’t allow it. Through his eight innings of work, Samardzija struck out nine batters and didn’t allow a single earned run.
Problems didn’t start until the bottom of the ninth when he train wreck otherwise known as Carlos Marmol came out of the bullpen and blew things up for the Cubs. Marmol quickly allowed runners on base and eventually allowed a run to score before being pulled after 1/3 of an inning of work. Chicago cycled through two relievers on two hitters to close out the game with Kyuji Fujikawa finishing things off.
Chicago has been waiting to get a lineup that works, and had it not been for Marmol’s hiccup in the ninth, the win would have been closed out with ease. The Cubs are a team on the rise, and their Opening Day win is just one of the reasons they’re a team to watch closely this season.