Cubs fall to rival Cardinals on Opening Night
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs fall to rival Cardinals on Opening Night

by - Senior Editor -

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on Opening Night at Busch Stadium. Tonight's game was the first time in 16,945 games that the Cubs opened the season as defending World Series champions according to Ed Hartig.

Cubs ace Jon Lester pitched out of jams with four strikeouts through the first and second inning. In the third inning, Dexter Fowler singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Carpenter to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. During the inning, Javier Baez misjudged a ground ball that could have turned into a double play. The Cubs in the following inning complained that Baez could not see the ground ball because of a white background ad behind the plate. The instant replay showed that he was very slow is finding the grounder and reacting in general which is very unlike his stellar defense.

Lester was pulled after 102 pitches going five innings allowing seven hits, a run, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

Cardinals flamethrower Carlos Martinez was impressive hitting 100 MPH on several of his punchouts early on Cubs hitters. He averaged 95.7 mph on his fastball last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. During one stretch of the ballgame, Martinez retired ten in a row and 16 of 17 batters. A single by shortstop Addison Russell broke up a streak of 12 consecutive batters retired by Martinez.

Another interesting tidbit from ESPN Stats and Information is that the Cubs batters have struck out at least ten times in their last four opening day games.

Young reliever C.J. Edwards came into a log jammed mess in the sixth inning but got pitcher Carlos Martinez to ground into a bases-loaded double play to keep the score 1-0. In the eighth inning, a leadoff single by Willson Contreras and a one-out single by Javy Baez forces Martinez out of the game. He finished with a hefty 105 pitch count and got a standing ovation by the Cardinals fans in attendance. Kyle Schwarber poached a walk, then both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo popped up with the bases loaded to end the biggest threat of the game for the reigning Champions. Bryant had a rough game going 0-4 with three strikeouts.

As good teams will do, the Cardinals make the Cubs pay for not scoring as Randal Grichuk smashed an opposite field two-run homer against reliever Pedro Strop to put the Cardinals up 3-0.

In the ninth inning, Ben Zobrist was plunked by a pitch by Seung-hwan Oh to start the inning. Shortstop Addison Russell struck out on a high fastball, and outfielder Jason Heyward reached on an infield single. Catcher Willson Contreras came in with two men on and crushed a three-run homer to tie the game at 3-3. He is the first Cubs player to hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning or later with his team trailing by 3+ runs on the road according to ESPN Stats and Information. Contreras has shown his power of late as he tied the team lead with six spring home runs.

In the bottom of the inning, Yadier Molina drew the first no-pitch intentional walk in major league history. A single, the Molina intentionally walk, and a traditional walk loaded the bases for Grichuk. The player of the game smashed a rocket straight to the wall that was uncatchable by Schwarber, and the Cardinals were victorious 4-3 in the wild final inning. It was his second walk-off hit of his career as his first was also last May against the Cubs.

The Cubs and Cardinals will play 18 more times against each other during the regular season in 2017.

There will be an offday for the both teams on Monday and then veteran righty Jake Arrieta will face off against righty Adam Wainwright at 7:15 p.m. CT on CSN+. They will wrap up the series on Wednesday as John Lackey will battle Lance Lynn.

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