It was an opening day to “not remember”. Big Z had his shortest start ever – recording just 4 total outs. Zambrano gave up 8 ER on 6 hits, 2 walks and 1 HBP. 10 Braves batters stepped up to the plate against Big Z in the 1st inning alone. Not good. Zambrano’s assessment of his performance — “Too many pitches in the middle. They have a good lineup. Against a team like that, you can’t put the ball in the middle. You have to hit spots and the corner if you want to pitch good against the Braves.”
After being staked to a 3-run lead on Marlon Byrd’s 3-run home run in the 1st inning, Zambrano quickly walked the Braves leadoff hitter Melky Cabrera. That set the tone for the Braves big 1st inning, capped off by rookie Jason Heyward’s 3-run bomb to deep right field in his 1st major league at-bat. WOW!
Sean Marshall (5 K’s in 8 batters faced) and rookie James Russell did their best to keep the Cubs in the game with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. But then Jeff Samardzija and Justin Berg allowed the floodgates to open again in the 7th and 8th innings. Samardzija walked the first 3 batters that he faced and ended up recording just 1 out while allowing 6 runs (4 earned). Berg also walked 3 batters and gave up 2 ER on 2 hits. Bad, bad, bad.
Manager Lou Pinella was clearly upset with his staff’s performance — “I never envisioned giving up 16 runs on Opening Day — never in my wildest dreams. 16 runs after we pitched really well all spring. And not only did we pitch well, but we threw strikes and got ahead of hitters. Today was the complete opposite… You can’t pitch from behind against a good-hitting team. And you certainly can’t walk people against a good-hitting team, and that’s exactly what we did.”
One big turning point – in the top of the 6th inning with the Cubs trailing 8-5, Marlon Byrd lined a single to center field that Nate McLouth looked like he caught. But the ball bounced out of his glove for what should have been a hit and a 1st and 2nd no-out scoring chance for the Cubs. But McLouth’s body shielded the umpires from seeing the ball squirt loose and he quickly tossed the ball back into the infield as if he caught the ball for an out. The umpires ruled that he caught the ball and then Aramis Ramirez was doubled off of 1st base for the 2nd out of the inning. Talk about bad luck.
The Cubs managed just 5 total hits all day long – 2 by Kosuke Fukudome, 2 by Aramis Ramirez who stroked a 2-run bomb to deep left field and 1 by Byrd on his home run.
Let’s hope that Ryan Dempster fairs better in Game 2 of Year 1 on Wednesday night in Atlanta…