A season of high expectations got off to a promising start Monday, with the Cubs defeating the Houston Astros 4-2 at Midget Maid. Or maybe I should say it got off to a “thundering” start…as in the thunder produced by Alfonso Soriano‘s bat. As if to shut up all the naysayers – like me – the oft-criticized lead-off man blasted the second pitch of the season into the seats, handing the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Of course, just a couple innings later, Soriano reminded the naysayers why we say “nay” so much: with a 2-0 lead, two men on and 2 out, Soriano jumped all over Roy Oswalt‘s first pitch, splintering his bat and bouncing weakly into the third out. What could’ve been a big inning fizzled – like so many would-be productive frames have done for the Cubs’ offense in past years.
But there I go being negative again. Today is a time not for criticism but to bask in the glow of all that was encouraging about game 1 of the 2009 campaign. Like Carlos Zambrano‘s 6 inning, 5 hit, 1 run, 6 K performance…and the three innings of solid relief that sealed the win for him. Although – at the risk of seeming negative again – it is my duty to point out that new closer Kevin Gregg surrendered a run on 2 hits before settling down to get the save.
Otherwise, it was not a day of big drama. The Cubs built a 3 run lead – one run coming on Aramis Ramirez’s first ding-dong of the season – and sat on it like a playoff team should. They pounded around Roy Oswalt some, amassing 7 hits in his 7 innings of work, but despite having him on the ropes early, failed to deliver the knock-out blow. Also on the minus side: Kosuke Fukudome‘s 0-4 in the #2 hole. The verdict is still out on the wisdom of placing the apparent big-money bust in that role. On the other hand, Mike Fontenot – the guy who will likely end up replacing Fukudome in the 2 slot – went 3-4 with 2 runs, and provided quite a spark at the bottom of the order.
Game 2 vs. Houston goes down Tuesday night at 7 central, with Ryan Dempster and Wandy Rodriguez scheduled to start.