Opening Day: Cubs fail to perform in frigid conditions
Cubs baseball in Bear weather wasn't a good mix on Thursday.
With temperatures in the low 30s at Wrigley Field, the Cubs couldn't hit, failed at throwing strikes and generally posted a miserable performance on Opening Day against Pittsburgh.
Their best trait was squirming out of jams. The Pirates won 5-3, but piled up 21 baserunners to the Cubs' 6. The home team finished with just 2 hits and starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks lasted 3 innings.
"I was warm, but really made it tough on the position players today by just long innings, long counts," Hendricks said. "A lot of three-ball counts, a lot of walks. So they're just standing out there getting cold. It was just bad all around, set a bad tone."
Obviously, it's a challenge to go from seven weeks in Arizona to a freezing-cold day at Wrigley, but it's something they do every year. The Pirates arrived from Bradenton, Fla., and managed to play a competent game.
"It's definitely an adjustment," Anthony Rizzo said. "It's definitely something that's hard to train for. But we have the heaters, we have everything to counter it. And honestly, when the sun's out, we just play.
"The Pirates have to play through it, there's a lot of teams playing through cold weather. I think I saw a snow game (in Detroit) before I took the field. We know it's a different mindset in April and May here and you've got to be tough."
Rizzo collected the Cubs' first hit of the new season with a first-inning double. The second hit was a leadoff double by Eric Sogard in the eighth.
They loaded the bases with 1 out in the first, but scored just 1 run on Joc Pederson's sacrifice fly. The second run was the result of Willson Contreras reaching on an error, stealing second, taking third on an error and scoring on Rizzo's sacrifice fly.
The Cubs scored all 3 runs on sacrifice flies, something they haven't done since a 1958 game at Forbes Field. In the ninth, Pederson walked with 1 out to bring the tying run to the plate, but Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez struck out Javy Baez and Jason Heyward to finish it off.
The Pirates took a quick 2-0 lead when Hendricks walked Adam Frazier to lead off the game and rookie-of-the-year candidate Ke'Bryan Hayes sent a Hendricks pitch through the wind and into the left-field bleachers.
Coincidentally, the last first-inning, Opening Day home run by a Cubs' opponent was by Heyward off Carlos Zambrano in 2010 at Atlanta, in Heyward's first major league at-bat.
The Cubs used eight pitchers, who gave up 11 walks, 9 hits and a hit batsman. So maybe now at least bullpen guys will be more comfortable, since all but closer Craig Kimbrel took the mound.
"There's an adjustment period I'm sure from going from nice warm weather to cold weather, with how to grip the ball and feel your way through some things," manager David Ross said. "Coming out of that nice warm bullpen to the environment that's out on the field. Hopefully we got enough guys in to learn from that kind of feeling and be better come Saturday."
The loss spoiled the return of fans to Wrigley. The city allowed roughly 10,000 fans to be in attendance.
"That was incredible," Rizzo said. "I personally just took an extra moment when I took the field to appreciate them being here and their cheers and being able to play in front of them. It was definitely something I'll never forget, taking the field today."