Chicago Cubs club their way past Rangers, 12-4, in season opener
ARLINGTON, Texas -- How's that for urgency, Chicago Cubs fans?
After a winter of discontent and soul searching, the Cubs got liftoff from their heart-and-soul guy in an 12-4 opening-day victory Thursday over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
Javier Baez, who knows no other way to get things done than urgently, helped bring the Cubs back from an early 2-0 deficit with a solo home run in the fourth inning.
In the Cubs' 6-run fifth, Baez hit a 3-run homer, and the Cubs kept the pedal to the floor the rest of the way.
Baez's first homer was a drive to left-center against Rangers starter Mike Minor. The second was an opposite-field screamer to right-center on the first pitch he saw from former Cubs reliever Jesse Chavez.
"I think last year at the end of the season, we were trying to do too much," said Baez, who became the first Cub with multiple homers on Opening Day since Corey Patterson hit a pair in 2003. "We were trying to battle for first place in our division. After we had second place, we weren't really focused on the playoffs."
The Cubs ended their season with a loss to the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card game, and Baez lost a possible MVP award despite hitting 34 home runs and driving in 111.
The beneficiary of Baez's big day was starting pitcher Jon Lester, who picked up the win with 6 innings of 4-hit, 2-run ball. Lester gave up a 2-run homer to Elvis Andrus in the third to open the scoring, but he retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
Like the rest of the Cubs, he continues to marvel at the wonder that is Baez.
"Yeah, I think we all kind of saw him grow up before our eyes last year," Lester said. "This year, it's just him being himself now. He's done it, so I don't think the questions are there as far as, 'Can he?' I think now it's just a matter of him just going out and playing.
"Let Javy do Javy, and I think good things happen."
Baez started at shortstop, where he will remain at least until Addison Russell returns next month from his suspension for violating Major League Baseball's policy on domestic violence. Second-year man David Bote started at second base and got to see Baez up close.
"Not surprised at all, that's Javy being Javy," Bote said, reprising the theme of the postgame discussion. "The dude's a superstar, so it's awesome."
The Cubs drew 8 walks. Kris Bryant joined Baez by hitting a 2-run homer in the eighth, also an opposite-field drive to right.
"We're all good, that's all we needed," Bryant joked. "I think that was offensively better than any game we had last year. So that's a good start. Hopefully we can continue with it. That was a great game to be a part of, not stressful at all, just going out there and scoring a lot of runs. It was a lot of fun."