Aside from game, much excitement for Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Players line up for the opening of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field.

    Players line up for the opening of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • The Cubs' Jon Lester delivers the first pitch of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field.

    The Cubs' Jon Lester delivers the first pitch of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon looks over the field against the Cardinals during the opening of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field.

    Cubs manager Joe Maddon looks over the field against the Cardinals during the opening of the 2015 baseball season at Wrigley Field. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • The Cubs' Starlin Castro reacts to striking out in the eighth inning against the Cardinals.

    The Cubs' Starlin Castro reacts to striking out in the eighth inning against the Cardinals. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • The Cubss Jon Lester delivers a first-inning pitch against the Cardinals.

    The Cubss Jon Lester delivers a first-inning pitch against the Cardinals. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/6/2015 5:49 AM

There was so much new and so much to like Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

There was new manager Joe Maddon waxing poetic about his new home. And even though that home is under construction, there also was a nice new videoboard, which finally has brought the place into the 20th century 15 years into the 21st.

 

But there also was some of the same-old, same-old on the field as the Cubs fell 3-0 to their Gateway Arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cubs batters -- and stop us if you've heard this one before -- wasted 3 leadoff doubles and a leadoff single over the first five innings and went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Newly signed ace Jon Lester, who battled a "dead arm" in spring training, lasted but 4⅓ innings, giving up 8 hits and 3 runs. The good news for Cubs fans is that it's only Game 1 of 162 and they have Monday off to regroup.

"Not much working," Lester said. "Little bit of a grind from the get-go. Had a lot of foul balls, a lot of balls up in the zone. I wasn't real sharp. The ball was flat. Anytime I get that many flat balls, I know that I'm not where I need to be. The pitches aren't doing what I need them to be doing."

Maddon did not seem to be worried about Lester.

"He wasn't as sharp as he can be," the manager said. "I think that's obvious. The cutter wasn't there for him tonight. The velocity started out really well. From the first inning, it started out 93-94 (mph). He could find it after that when he wanted to, 91-92. But primarily I don't think his breaking ball was where he wanted it. That's what I saw was the biggest difference.

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"He just really hasn't had a chance to nail everything down, I don't think. Of course, I believe he will … I'm really not concerned with Jon Lester at all."

Even with the outfield bleachers unoccupied because of the initial stages of Wrigley Field renovations, this was the most anticipated Opening Day -- or Opening Night -- in years. Cubs fans in the crowd of 35,055 gave their loudest pregame cheers to Maddon and Lester.

"Fabulous, it was a fabulous night," Maddon said. "Other than us not winning, I thought a great night for everybody, for Chicago Cubs baseball. I thought it was outstanding outside of the 3-0 score.

"The fans were wonderful. The ballpark was absolutely electric. The pregame was wonderful. Everything was great. We've just got to come through with a couple of knocks now and then, but we will."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs did little with Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who worked 6 innings of shutout ball, giving up 5 hits while walking none and striking out six.

This is Year 4 of the rebuilding plan put forth by team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. On Opening Days the previous three years, Epstein talked of the Cubs surprising people. Now, the Cubs are expected to win.

"Really, just focus on getting off to a good start," Epstein said Sunday. "That's so important in this division. We put ourselves in a big hole the last few years. We've got more talent this year, and we have a more realistic chance to go do some damage and really compete this year. But the start is just so essential, especially when we're in a really competitive division.

"I thought it was really nice we had a really good final third to spring training. We started out slow, and we kind of found our way. We played some really good baseball that last week to 10 days."

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