So much for Spring Training. Anthony Rizzo, who didn't hit a home run in any Cactus League games, launched the first pitch he saw in the regular season out of PNC Park for a two-run blast to power the Cubs to a 3-1 victory Monday over the Pirates. Jeff Samardzija (1-0) outdueled A.J. Burnett (0-1) for the win, the Cubs' first on Opening Day since 2009. Samardzija gave up a leadoff single in the second to Neil Walker, then retired 14 in a row before Andrew McCutchen doubled with two outs in the sixth. The Pirates tallied in the ninth against Carlos Marmol, who struck out the first batter he faced. But Marmol then hit McCutchen, who stole second and scored on Pedro Alvarez's single to center. After Marmol walked Gaby Sanchez, manager Dale Sveum turned to James Russell, who induced Walker to pop up to to right field. Kyuji Fujikawa, making his Major League debut, came on to get Russell Martin to fly out to center to earn the save. Samardzija, who struck out nine and allowed only two hits over eight innings, got a boost in the first. With one out, Starlin Castro singled and Rizzo sent Burnett's first pitch 438 feet to right-center, the ball landing behind the bleacher seats. Rizzo was one of six Cubs making their first Opening Day starts, and knows the importance of getting off to a good start. "It's one-game playoffs every day for 162-plus [games], hopefully, and we just have to play hard," Rizzo said. "Everyone has to have each other's back. I think when everyone gets each other's back, everyone will get emotional and the emotion will carry us all year." Samardzija, admittedly amped about his first Opening Day start, walked the first batter he faced, but then settled down. He was beginning the season where his ended last Sept. 8 when he was shut down after reaching his innings limit. This year, there are no limits on the right-hander. "It's well deserved for what he did at the end of the season last year," Sveum said of Samardzija. "He's a guy who the other seven guys on the field want out on that mound because of his competitiveness and everything like that."
Samardzija twirls opening gem as Cubs stifle Bucs
MLB.com | Apr 1