4/4 Phillies 7, Cubs 2
Ernie, Billy, Fergie and Ryno took part in pregame ceremonies, helping celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary, but the Phillies spoiled the festivities at the Cubs’ home opener. Chase Utley hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning and added an RBI single in the seventh to lift the Phillies to a 7-2 victory Friday over the Cubs in front of 38,283 chilled fans.
The game marked the start of the team’s year-long celebration of Wrigley Field, which first opened in 1914 and has been the Cubs’ home for 98 seasons. Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg shared the first-pitch duties and all but Sandberg sang the seventh-inning stretch. The former Cubs second baseman had to take care of his on-field duties.
The Cubs totaled three hits, including Welington Castillo’s solo home run, which wasn’t enough for Travis Wood. The lefty took the loss in his first start of the year, striking out eight and scattering six hits over 6 1/3 innings. Wood totaled 24 quality starts last season, and picked up his first this year.
“Give Travis credit, he got through some innings that we kind of muffed a little bit and he got out of them but that took his pitch count up,” said Rick Renteria, specially pointing to the Phillies’ fourth.
In the fourth, Marlon Byrd reached on an error by Chicago third baseman Luis Valbuena, who couldn’t close his glove on the ball. Byrd moved up on Ryan Howard’s single and scored on Domonic Brown’s base hit that skipped past shortstop Starlin Castro.
With one out in the Phillies’ fifth, Carlos Ruiz singled and Utley smacked the first pitch into the right-field seats to take a 3-2 lead. A career .267 hitter against left-handers, Utley had never faced Wood before Friday’s game, and hit his RBI single in the seventh off another southpaw, Wesley Wright.
Renteria believes he has some good hitters, too, but in four games, the Cubs are batting .201.
“We’ve been having good at-bats and guys are seeing pitches,” Darwin Barney said. “We’re getting to the starter a little bit but we’re not keying in in situations and making it hurt. I think four games in, hopefully, we can keep getting more comfortable and keep getting better.”
The Cubs staff is looking more at the approach at the plate, not the numbers.
“You don’t know, four games in, the identity of an offense,” Barney said. “I think none of us are too worried about it. Obvoiusly, pitching has been good enough to be 4-0 right now. If we can turn it around offensively a little bit, I think things will look better.”
Castro and Anthony Rizzo are each 2-for-17, although Rizzo nearly took advantage of the bizarre 23 mph westerly wind in the first when he hit a fly ball to the track in center. On cold days at Wrigley, the wind usually blows in and favors pitchers.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that way — I asked a lot of guys and even asked Sandberg about it,” Barney said. “He said it was really odd that the wind was blowing out even though it was so cold.”
Castro, slowed this spring by a strained hamstring that resulted in him playing more Minor League games than Cactus League ones, wasn’t worried about the slow start. The shortstop said in Spring Training he wanted to get back to having an All-Star type season. Is he putting pressure on himself?
“No,” Castro said. “I try to get my mind strong. I know who I am, I know what I can do and I’m going to be good.”
The fans have high expectations for the Cubs, and some showed their displeasure at the sluggish offense.
“We all know how the fans are,” Renteria said. “They want to see a good ballgame and they want their team to do well and they have every right to be dissatisfied when we don’t do well, as we all are in that clubhouse. The one thing I have to maintain and we will maintain is that we take an even-keel approach and address those things that need to be addressed, and we’ll play another game tomorrow.”
– Carrie Muskat