Chicago Cubs over .500 for first time in Theo Epstein era

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo rounds the bases after hitting a home run.
Anthony Rizzo got the Cubs of to a fast start Monday with a two-run homer in the first. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Baby steps. You have to crawl before you can walk. And with the way that the Chicago Cubs ended up last season, 1-0 looks like playoff contention.

The Cubs started off the season the right way by getting to A.J. Burnett before he hit his stride. Burnett stuck out 10 in 5.2 innings of work, but he was never able to climb out of the hole Anthony Rizzo dug with his first swing of the bat. And the early cushion was enough for Jeff Samardzija, who struck out nine over eight innings. Those who wanted to see offense on opening day went away disappointed.

The Cubs were forced into a last-minute lineup change when Darwin Barney lacerated a kneecap, and Brent Lillibridge made an unexpected opening-day start. In addition to making the team’s only error in the field, LOLibridge also went 0-3 at the plate, striking out each time. Let’s just say that Barney can’t return from the DL soon enough.

But the game took a weird, deja vu twist in the ninth. With a three-run lead, the Chicago Cubs sent in their closer of many years, Carlos Marmol. Marmol got the first out, but then he hit Andrew McCutchen, and the wheels came off. He was lifted from the game and hopefully — in this writer’s opinion — will never again be called on to save a game for the Chicago Cubs. The future arrived in the form of Japanese acquisition Kyuji Fujikawa, who recorded the final out and picked up the first of — hopefully — many saves as a Cubs pitcher.

The Chicago Cubs are back at it again with two more in Pittsburgh and three more in Atlanta before next Monday’s home opener at Wrigley Field. So far, at least, the results have been encouraging.


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