3/31 Game 1: Pirates 1, Cubs 0
Neil Walker spoiled Rick Renteria’s managerial debut. Walker smacked a walkoff home run in the 10th inning Monday to lift the Pirates to a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on a sun-splashed day at PNC Park. Walker connected on a 3-2 pitch from Carlos Villanueva, who won the fifth spot in the rotation, but was not scheduled to start until Sunday. It was Walker’s first career walkoff hit.
The Cubs had chances, stranding eight batters in the game, and went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Renteria made his managerial debut in front of 39,833, the largest regular season crowd in PNC Park history. He also was the first to use expanded instant replay in the history of Major League Baseball when he challenged a play at first base in the fifth inning.
This was Jeff Samardzija’s second straight Opening Day start, and second in a row at PNC Park. One year ago, he gave up two hits over eight shutout innings in the Cubs’ win. On Monday, he threw seven shutout innings.
“You can only control what you can control,” Samardzija said about the lack of offense. “[Pitchers] have a bat, too. We have a say in how it turns out. We need to take advantage of every opportunity we get. Ultimately, we’re out there pitching and that’s our job. We’re not here to speculate, we’re not here to say this or that. We’re pitchers and we’re out there to pitch. These guys are working hard and we have their back 100 percent. The quicker we can get them in the dugout, the better chance we have to score some runs.”
Renteria, 52, has come full circle. He made his big league debut at Three Rivers Stadium with the Pirates on Sept. 14, 1986, against the Cubs.
The Cubs batted .218 last year with RISP, worst in the National League. Anthony Rizzo doesn’t expect a repeat of that.
“We’re a very confident group,” Rizzo said. “It’s a good thing. There’s a lot of good energy in the dugout and the clubhouse before the game. It’s a tough loss, obviously, but it’s one game. No one’s going home yet. It’s nice to have the energy in here. Runs will be scored.”
– Carrie Muskat