Cubs lose to Utley, Phillies in Wrigley opener
CHICAGO – The historic home opener for the Cubs looked like so many of their April games at Wrigley Field over the years.
A big crowd on a cold and blustery afternoon. A couple of big homers for the opposing team, and then a quiet ninth inning as the home team goes down in order in a half-full ballpark.
Welington Castillo hit a solo homer Friday, but the Cubs lost, 7-2, to the Philadelphia Phillies in the first home game for rookie manager Rick Renteria.
“We had some balls that just missed,” Renteria said. “They ended up hitting some balls that carried a little bit more. But I think all in all, we did not go in there and have a very good plan of attack in general so it kind of cost us.”
Chase Utley hit a two-run homer and an RBI single for Philadelphia, which finished with 11 hits. Pinch hitter John Mayberry Jr. also had a two-run shot, and Ben Revere and Domonic Brown had three hits apiece.
“It was cold out there and the wind was blowing. It made it even colder,” Utley said. “But I thought overall we swung the bats pretty well.”
The Phillies also got a strong outing from Roberto Hernandez (1-0), who pitched into the sixth inning in his first game after signing a $4.5 million, one-year contract with Philadelphia in the offseason.
“He did his job today. He looked good,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “Really liked his two-seam fastball, action on it was going down pretty good.”
Starlin Castro had an RBI single for the Cubs, who have dropped four consecutive home openers for the first time since 1991 through ’94. Travis Wood (0-1) struck out eight in 61/3 innings, but was charged with four runs, three earned, and six hits.
“I’d like to have a couple pitches back,” Wood said. “The one to Utley, the one there at the end to Revere that ended up chasing me from the ballgame. But other than that I thought I kept them pretty off balanced and kept us in the game.”
Wrigley Field was all dressed up for the first game of its 100th anniversary season.
There were big blue banners on each side of the red sign that welcomes visitors to the beloved ballpark, and fans headed to the outfield bleachers strolled past historical pictures from the Cubs’ longtime home.
The crowd of 38,283, wearing jackets and winter hats for the chilly afternoon, roared when Sandberg joined fellow Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams on the mound for a ceremonial first pitch. Banks, Jenkins and Williams drew more cheers when they sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
“It’s a special day for me to be here, just for the festivities and the memories of opening days here,” said Sandberg, who spent 15 seasons in Chicago. “The fan base and the excitement opening day brought every year with the optimism that this is going to be the year. I thought that every single year.”
The Cubs are still waiting for that year. They last won the World Series in 1908, and many of their fans are more interested in the prospects in Chicago’s touted farm system than the players on the major league roster.
Hours before the home opener, one fan held up a sign near the Cubs’ dugout that read: “There’s Always Next Year.”
NOTES: The game-time temperature was 38 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like 28. ... Cubs 3B Mike Olt was out of the starting lineup after he hit his first major league homer in Thursday’s 3-2 victory in Pittsburgh. He was hampered by a sore right shoulder in spring training. “You’ve got to remember we’re still trying to protect Olt a little bit,” Renteria said. ... Phillies LHP Cliff Lee (1-0, 14.40 ERA) faces Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Saturday ... Cubs OF prospect Jorge Soler injured a hamstring in his first game of the season with Double-A Tennessee. “We’ll probably get an MRI today and see how it is,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. ... Renteria said the team is still deciding whether RHP Carlos Villanueva will start the series finale against the Phillies. Villanueva got the loss in Chicago’s first two games of the season.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap