The Chicago Cubs know how to spoil a party. With the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals hosting their rivals for their 2012 home opener, the Cubs jumped out to a lead and never looked back in their 9-5 win at Busch Stadium to open up their three-game set.
Jeff Samardzija wasn’t as impressive as he was in his first start of 2012 for the Cubs, but he didn’t have to be.
Samardzija did get the win, taking him to 2-0 on the season, but he was tagged for five runs in five innings, on ten hits. All five runs came in the fifth inning.
For the second consecutive day, the Cubs’ bats broke out in a big way against an elite pitcher, this one coming against Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright lasted just three innings, surrendering eight earned to a Cubs team that scored eight in their win on Thursday. This one, though, came mostly thanks to the long ball.
In the first inning, Ian Stewart went deep for a three-run shot before Bryan LaHair hit his first career grand slam in the third inning, to put the Cubs up eight. Starlin Castro added the other RBI for the Cubs, and stole another base.
But even with the offense playing as well as it did, particularly with the power game, the biggest positive for the Cubs on Friday was the bullpen. Already off to a rough start this year, it was a flawless group that came out in relief of Samardzija for the last four innings of the ballgame.
Rafael Dolis continues to impress me. He pitched a pair of scoreless frames, allowing just one hit. James Russell also continued to look sharp, as he and Kerry Wood combined for a scoreless eighth. Carlos Marmol finished it off in the ninth.
The defense also continued its improvement, with a beauty of a grab from David DeJesus and another from Alfonso Soriano in the outfield corners. It’d be nice if the Cubs could go through a stretch of games without having to sub in Reed Johnson for Sori out in left. He’s played well so far out there.
This is a Cubs team that is better than their record indicates. Perhaps they can spoil a bit more of what is supposed to be a celebratory weekend for St. Louis. We’ll see what they get out of Chris Volstad, who makes his second start as a Cub on Saturday.