Jason Heyward ready to play

His face and head covered in shaving cream and his first home run

ball stashed safely away, Jason Heyward stood in front of his

locker and beamed.

“I had a blast,” he said.

He stole the show on Opening Day.

Minutes after catching the ceremonial first pitch from Hank

Aaron, Heyward hit a three-run homer in his first major league

at-bat to spark the Braves to a 16-5 opening win Monday over Carlos

Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs.

Heyward, who also had a run-scoring single in the eighth, was

2 for 5 with four RBIs.

“It was the first of many career highlights for him,” said

Atlanta’s Chipper Jones. “That was impressive, that was very

impressive.”

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Braves fans in the sellout crowd eagerly embraced Heyward,

from Henry County, about 30 minutes south of Atlanta.

Fans chanted “Let’s go, Heyward!” as he confidently took two

pitches in his first-inning at-bat, then sent a fastball from

Zambrano into the Braves’ bullpen behind the right-field wall on

his first swing, sending the crowd over the top.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard this stadium that loud,”

Jones said.

Added Heyward when asked how he felt as he ran around the

bases: “I felt my legs but I couldn’t hear myself think, it was so

loud.”

After the game, Braves reliever Peter Moylan crept behind a

crowd of reporters and hit the rookie with a towel full of shaving

cream.

“I guess shaving cream is a good thing,” Heyward said with a

smile.

Yunel Escobar drove in a career-high five runs as Zambrano

gave up eight runs in 1 1-3 innings, matching the shortest of 239

career starts.

Marlon Byrd, playing his first game with the Cubs, hit a

three-run homer in the first inning and Aramis Ramirez added a

two-run drive in the third.

Derek Lowe (1-0) gave up five runs, five hits and three walks

in six innings before a sellout crowd of 53,081, a record for a day

game in Atlanta and was the fourth-largest overall in Atlanta

history.

Brian McCann hit a homer in the second, when the Braves

knocked out Zambrano (0-1), but opening day belonged to Heyward.

“He’s good,” Zambrano said. “Anybody can be good with two

balls and no strikes, but you have to give him credit.”

The 20-year-old Heyward became the sixth Braves player to

homer in his debut, the fourth to do so in his first plate

appearance. Jordan Schafer also did it last season.

Heyward answered cheers from the fans by tipping his cap at

the edge of the dugout.

Heyward (6-foot-5, 240) won the starting job in right field

despite playing only 50 games above Class A in his quick rise

through the minor leagues. He was selected baseball’s top prospect

by Baseball America after hitting .323 with 17 homers and 63 RBIs

at three minor league stops in 2009, and was put on the major

league roster by the Braves just last Saturday.

“Jason had a spectacular day, really,” said Braves manager

Bobby Cox. “He’ll have his struggles, probably, like any other

20-year-old in the big leagues, but he’s a very talented kid. And

when he’s not hitting, he’s going to help us in the outfield. He’s

a very gifted athlete.”

Atlanta sent 10 batters to the plate in both the first and

seventh innings.

“It was something of an embarrassing loss,” said Cubs

manager Lou Piniella. “Never did I anticipate we’d give up 16 runs

on Opening Day, not in my wildest dreams.”

In the first, Chipper Jones drove in Melky Cabrera when his

shallow fly ball fell between shortstop Ryan Theriot and Byrd in

center for a single. Escobar added a two-run single before

Heyward’s line-drive homer.

Making his sixth straight opening day start for the Cubs,

Zambrano gave up six hits and two walks with one strikeout.

“I left some pitches over the middle,” Zambrano said. “When

you do that at this level, you’re going to get crushed.”

Braves center fielder Nate McLouth made running catches of

drives hit by Ramirez in the first and Derrek Lee in the fifth.

McLouth was credited with a diving catch of a ball hit by Byrd in

the left-center gap in the sixth, though a replay showed the ball

popped out of McLouth’s glove when he hit the ground.

As umpires called out Byrd, McLouth threw the ball back to

Escobar, whose throw to first base forced out Ramirez.

Piniella argued the ruling that McLouth made the catch. The

umpires huddled but did not overturn the original call.

Escobar had a three-run double, and pinch-hitter Eric Hinske

added a run-scoring triple off Jeff Samardzija in the seventh.

Samardzija walked three batters in the six-run inning.

Six Chicago pitchers combined for eight walks.

“The thing that was so upsetting was we didn’t walk people in

spring training,” Piniella said. “I complimented our pitchers on

that.”

Right-hander Takashi Saito and left-handed closer Billy

Wagner pitched perfect innings in their Atlanta debuts to end the

game.

NOTES: McCann received his 2009 Silver Slugger award before the

game. … New Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and his brother, Todd,

attended the game. … Sean Marshall had five strikeouts in 2 2-3

perfect innings behind Zambrano. … Zambrano also lasted only 1

1-3 innings against Pittsburgh on Sept. 4, 2006. … The other

Braves to homer in their first plate appearances were Joe

Harrington (1895); Johnny Bates (1906) and Jermaine Dye

(1996).