Busch stadium saw two familiar faces take the field last night: John Lackey was on the mound for the Chicago Cubs in the season opener of this nearly ancient baseball rivalry, and Jason Heyward was in right field. There was booing from the very start, mostly aimed at Heyward, but Lackey said of the negativity: “I’ve seen booing – that ain’t booing.”
Cardinals fans didn’t get anything else to be happy about. Through the first five innings, it was a pitcher’s duel, with Mike Leake on the mound for St. Louis and putting up a solid outing of his own. Lackey had to pitch his way out of one sticky situation in the fifth as Leake missed a try for a bunt that held Kolten Wong on third and prevented the run. Lackey proceeded to strike out Leake and then Matt Carpenter to end that inning and preserve the shutout.
In the sixth, Dexter Fowler led off with a solid smack into the stands, and the Cubs never looked back. In the seventh, Kris Bryant singled and advanced on a fielder’s choice grounded into by Jorge Soler. A throwing error by St. Louis shortstop Aledmys Diaz put Montero on third and scored Bryant. Just before departing the game, Lackey singled and drove in an RBI of his own, making the score 4-0. Bryant and Ben Zobrist combined for a fifth run in the eighth, and Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Trevor Cahill teamed up for the hold.
This was quite a day for Lackey. He pitched his 2,500th inning. He joined a very short list of seventeen pitchers who have beaten all 30 teams in the Major Leagues at least once. He is the only active pitcher on that list, since Dan Haren retired after 2015. He started his season 3-0 and he made a statement to his old team, all in one seven-inning stretch. He had eleven strikeouts and an RBI single to top it off.
The Cardinals, of course, it being their “way,” screwed with the warmup music for the Cubs, who ended up using a speaker and a phone to provide their own tunes. Just another day in one of baseball’s great rivalries. I’m pretty sure Joe Maddon wouldn’t do that to the Redbirds, but again – it’s the “Cardinal Way.”
On a happy note: the Dave & Gizmo’s Player of the Game Award, the award no one knows about, goes to Lackey. Hats off and big respect. Honorable mentions to Fowler, who went 2-for-5 at the plate and ran down a long smack in center field, and to Jason Heyward for a couple of highlight-reel level catches. It will be noted that when Bryant singled – the Rally Dog called it. Gizzymomo is one-for-one this year calling Cubs rallies. #Letsgo!