Happ HR on 1st pitch of season; Rizzo, Cubs beat Marlins 8-4
MIAMI (AP) A large contingent of Chicago Cubs fans crashed opening day in Miami, and one pitch into the major league season, Ian Happ had them on their feet to celebrate while Marlins fans stewed.
An inning later, Anthony Rizzo earned a standing ovation from the entire stadium, the cheers mixed with tears.
Happ hit a leadoff homer, and Rizzo also homered to make his emotional homecoming even more memorable, leading the Cubs past Derek Jeter’s Marlins 8-4 Thursday.
Rizzo homered into the upper deck in the second inning – an unscripted lump-in-the-throat tribute to the victims of last month’s shooting at his former high school in Parkland, Florida.
”That was probably the most out of body experience I’ve had hitting a home run in my life,” Rizzo said. ”It just felt really good.”
Both teams wore patches to honor those killed, and Rizzo plans to host four families of the victims at Friday’s game. As he crossed home plate after his homer, Rizzo patted the patch on his chest and pointed to the sky.
”Looking up to those kids up there,” he said, ”it was a special moment for me.”
Happ, playing in his first opening day game, pulled Jose Urena’s first pitch into the seats. The only other time anyone hit a home run on the first pitch of the big league season was 1986, when Dwight Evans of the Red Sox connected against future Hall of Famer Jack Morris against Tiger Stadium in 1986, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Happ gave the Cubs the fast start they sought. They’re eager to replicate the quick getaway in 2016 that helped propel them to their first World Series title in 108 years, and the opener gave them a lot to savor.
”The enthusiasm in the dugout was stupid good,” manager Joe Maddon said. ”I love the vibe.”
The mood was the same in the stands. A lively crowd of 32,151 on a mild, sun-splashed afternoon – with the retractable roof open – made Marlins Park sound like Wrigley Field at times.
”Everybody heard the Cubs fans,” Marlins right fielder Garrett Cooper said. ”They travel well. That’s a big baseball team, a big fan base, so you expect them to travel pretty well, and they did.”
Kyle Schwarber cost the Cubs a run with a misplay in left field, but atoned with a homer in the seventh. A pair of three-run rallies helped Chicago overcome a rocky start by Jon Lester, who lasted only 3 1-3 innings.
Jeter, who homered in a win in his first opening day with the Yankees in 1996, had less success in his debut as the Marlins’ CEO. Doubles by Kris Bryant and Wilson Contreras in the fourth put the Cubs ahead to stay, and Tommy La Stella contributed a pinch-hit, two-run double.
The Cubs bullpen, revamped after a dismal 2017 postseason, shut out Miami over the final 5 2-3 innings, allowing only one hit. Newcomer Steve Cishek (1-0) stranded four runners in two scoreless innings.
Lester, making his seventh opening day start, allowed all four Miami runs, three earned.
”I didn’t throw the ball very well at all,” Lester said. ”I wasn’t throwing strikes, I wasn’t finishing guys, I had no breaking ball.”
Urena (0-1) needed 36 pitches to get through the first inning, when the Cubs scored three times with only one hit. In his first opening day start, Urena allowed five runs in four innings.
In the wake of Jeter’s offseason payroll purge, 12 Marlins made an opening day roster for the first time. They included Brian Anderson, who singled home a run in each of his first two at-bats, and Cooper, who replaced NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in right field and singled home a run to make it 4-all in the third.
Another newcomer, Tayron Guerrero, struck out the first four batters he faced before allowing Schwarber’s homer.
”Our guys are going to get better as this year goes,” manager Don Mattingly said, ”but I don’t see us backing away from anybody.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who feuded with the Marlins’ previous ownership regime and boycotted games, threw out the first pitch along with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
Reliever Pedro Strop made the Cubs roster, even though a sore left calf and an illness limited him during this spring. He pitched a scoreless seventh.
RHP Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to pitch Friday for the Cubs, who open the season with a 10-game trip. Miami rookie LHP Caleb Smith will try for his first career win.
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