Baseball is back at Wrigley Field. Things are different from last year. The Cubs and the World Series are being talked about in the same sentence. There are new seats behind home plate that cost $250 for prime dates. Greg Maddux is starting for the North Siders -- and not Atlanta. The rooftop owners and the Cubs have settled their dispute.
And there is for Opening Day.
Some things are the same. Bill Murray is set to throw out the first pitch, Wrigley will be packed, getting to the "L" platform after the game will be chaos, Sammy Sosa will be in a Cub uniform for his 13th season, the beer will be flowing, and optimism is high.
The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the middle 40s with winds blowing between 10 and 20 miles-per-hour.
Drop me a comment or question with the e-mail form on the right and I'll do my best to answer it or post your comment. Please no questions on whether I can get you tickets (there are still some fine obstructed view tickets remaining), why the Tribune was cheap and didn't sign Ivan Rodriguez (the Cubs do have the sixth highest payroll in baseball), or when Mark Prior is going to return (your guess is as good as mine).
Don't forget that Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan answers your e-mails all season. So drop him a line too.
We'll be back as soon as Murray starts warming up for the first pitch. Last year he went to home plate after his opening toss for the umpires' meeting and slipped some money into the pockets of all four umps. Does he have an encore planned for this year? Stay tuned.
Here are the starting lineups.
Pirates: Tike Redman CF, Jack Wilson SS, Jason Kendall C, Raul Mondesi LF, Rob Mackowiak RF, Craig Wilson 1B, Chris Stynes 3B, Jose Castillo 2B, Kris Benson P.
Cubs: Todd Walker 2B, Corey Patterson CF, Sammy Sosa RF, Moises Alou LF, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Derrek Lee 1B, Alex Gonzalez SS, Paul Bako C, Greg Maddux P.
Murray update: Warming up in the Cub bullpen.
Indianapolis' Kevin Sobiski writes that I neglected to mention if the wind is blowing in or out. Kevin, I was saving that for the lead in my first inning update, but I'll give it to you now. The wind is blowing in.
The Cubs raised the 2003 National League Central Division Championship banner down the left field line in the pregame festivities.
Murray's first pitch: He's wearing No. 14, a Cubs hat and jeans. Here we go. He launches it from the mound and it goes over the backstop and into the crowd. Somebody got a Murray souvenir. After jumping on home plate, he heads into the dugout.
Maddux is back and he gets ahead 1-2 on Redman and then strikes him out. Wilson now has a seven-game hitting streak as he singles. Kendall, batting .375 this season and a lofty .342 career average against Maddux, flies out deep to Alou. The wind saves Maddux and the Cubs. Wilson steals second on the high pitch and high throw by Bako. Mondesi, who landed in Pittsburgh this year, takes the count to 3-2 before walkingtwo on, two out. Mackowiak grounds out to second to end the inning.
Tom Goodwin flies out to start the game. We have a lineup change as Goodwin is in for Patterson. So Walker is now the second batter instead of leading off. Patterson has a strained groin. Walker makes the second out and Sosa comes to the plate. Sosa breaks his bat on a line drive and Stynes (remember him?) can't make the playinfield single. Alou walks to bring up Ramirez with runners on first and second. Benson buzzes his former teammate on 0-2. And then for good measure goes up and in again. Ramirez strikes out down and away.
Andy from Michigan asks: "With Mitre pitching so well (I know it has only been 1 game), what happens to him when (if?) Prior comes back? Does he go to the bullpen or head to Iowa to continue starting games?"
Andy, Mitre will get a few more starts so his performance will answer that question.
Craig Wilson gets on first via an infield single and Stynes follows with a popup to center. Castillo singles into right and Wilson advances to second with one out. Benson is up looking to sacrifice. Full count on Benson. Maddux walks the pitcher. Bases loaded, top of the order up. Redman flies to center and Wilson scores on the sacrifice fly. Men on first and second. Jack Wilson hits a double into the gap scoring Castillo. Benson advances to third. Kendall looks to really put the Cubs in a hole. Kendall singles up the middle scoring two. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild goes to the mound to talk to Maddux. Maddux almost plunks Mondesi in the head. Another stolen base and in a wild series of events Kendall scores after stealing second on a throwing error by Bako that ended up in the outfield. Mondesi flies out to end the inning. The boos are starting.
Pirates 5, Cubs 0
Michael from Chicago writes: "Greg Maddux walking the pitcher to load the bases? This is not the Maddux of old."
Michael, Maddux will be the first to admit that should never happen.
Lee walks to begin the bottom of the second. Gonzalez grounds one to short and Wilson commits an error. First and second, nobody out. Wilson's adventure at short continues as he boots an easy double play on a grounder by Bako. Bases loaded with Maddux up. Maddux grounds to Wilson and he tries to turn the double play. They get the force at second and Castillo makes a throwing error. Two runs score and Maddux is on first with one out. Three consecutive errors by the Pirates and now Benson throws three straight balls to Goodwin. Benson battles back to 3-2. Goodwin ends up flying out and Walker bounces one to first to end the inning.
Pirates 5, Cubs 2
Harley from Chicago writes: "Did Cub fans ever think that there was obviously a reason the Braves were willing to let a Cy Young winner go to a team they contend with in the National League? This is not the Maddux of old anymore guys."
Harley, after that second inning you weren't the only one who sent an e-mail criticizing Maddux.
Harley writes back: "I definitely didn't mean to "criticize" Maddux as he is still a solid pitcher ... just do not want Cub Nation thinking he is a savior; he's more like a good three."
Mackowiak gets plunked by Maddux. Watch out for another stolen base attempt here. Craig Wilson hits a double off Maddux. Guys on second and third. Forget about that stolen base. The bullpen is warming up. Stynes flies out for the first out. Castillo is walked bringing up Benson with the bases loaded and one out. A missed sign on the suicide squeeze results in Benson swinging away and missing while Mackowiak gets hung out to dry. Benson grounds out into a force play to end the inning.
Mark from Michigan writes: "Okay, time for the pro-Maddux backlash. Weren't all the experts saying he was done as late as June last season? And didn't he wind up with decent numbers? Remember, he's replacing Shawn Estes in the rotation. Shawn Estes!"
Ok, no more e-mails on Maddux. And please no more on Estes. Back to the game.
Sosa leads off and walks. Alou flies out to right for the first out. Ramirez grounds into a double play to end the inning.
Eric from Virginia asks if there is any word on Corey Patterson? Does it look serious?
Eric and everyone else that e-mailed about this, all that was announced was that he has a strained groin. If any more information becomes available I'll let you know.
Redman starts the inning with an out and then Jack Wilson singles for his third hit of the game. Kendall hits a chopper to short and the throw to second beats Wilson. Mondesi singles and Kendall advances to second. Mackowiak is walked by Maddux. Bases loaded with another Wilson coming up. Craig Wilson is walked on four straight pitches. That brings home a run.
Dusty Baker has had enough. Maddux is yanked and in comes Michael Wuertz. Stynes comes to the plate and grounds out to end the inning.
Pirates 6, Cubs 2
The Associated Press reports that Patterson was a late scratch due to a mild groin strain. And that is all they wrote about it.
Tim from Connecticut is happy that Chris Stynes is playing for the Pirates or the score would be 12-2.
Tim, be nice.
Lee hits a popup to Mondesi and he drops it. That's the fourth error for the Pirates. Be thankful you are not a pitcher for Pittsburgh. Lee is then thrown out trying to steal second. Gonzalez is out after Kendall makes a diving catch on a foul ball. A grounder by Bako ends the inning.
Maddux's final numbers: 3 2/3 innings, 6 runs, 5 earned, 8 hits, 5 walks, 1 strikeout.
Castillo starts the inning with a single up the middle. Benson sacrifices Castillo to second, one out. Wuertz walks Redman. Watch out Cubs fans. Jack Wilson, 3-for-3, is up. The Cubs finally retire Wilson on an infield popup. Kendall doubles into right scoring Castillo. Redman goes to third. Mondesi flies out to end the inning.
Pirates 7, Cubs 2
Kansas' Randy Reece writes: "Dusty is running with his first baseman despite trailing by four runs. Same old Dusty."
Randy, that same thing popped into my mind after Lee got thrown out.
Ramon Martinez pinch hits for Wuertz to start the bottom of the fifth. Benson walks the first batter. Goodwin grounds out to Castillo. Martinez advances to second. Walker lines out to left for out No. 2. Sosa goes deep but the wind pushes it back into Mondesi's glove. Yes, he did catch it on the fly. No errors for Pittsburgh that inning. The Cubs have one hit in five innings.
Tonino from Evanston writes: "Shhhhh! Don't look now but the Cubs have only one hit through five innings! Who is this Kris Benson, Maddux in disguise?
Tonino, Brian Meadows is warming up in the Pirates' bullpen. If he stymies the Cubs then I think the e-mails about the Cubs' offense will start to come in.
In pitching for the Cubs is Todd Wellemeyer, who strikes out Mackowiak and Craig Wilson to start the inning. Stynes follows with a single. Castillo strikes out looking for the third out. Three K's by Wellemeyer.
Benson remains in the game and Alou grounds out to third for the first out. An infield groundout by Ramirez brings Lee to the plate. Lee grounds out as Benson has an easy inning.
Byron from Illinois' writes: "So the Cubs LOB is the highest number on the box score. Does this really stand for Lethargic Offensive Batters?"
Byron, it does today.
Ex-Cub Bobby Hill is pinch-hitting for Benson. Wellemeyer still in the game for the Cubs. An at-bat readers care about and I zone out. Hill is on first. I will tell you how he got there when I find out. Redman bunts Hill to second. Redmond almost got a hit out of that. A reader informs me that Bobby Hill walked on five pitches. I'll spam him if he's wrong. Kendall walks. Wellemeyer retires Jack Wilson. Mondesi singles home Hill as the Pirates go up by six. Mackowiak popped out to second to end the inning.
Pirates 8, Cubs 2
Murray sings the seventh inning stretch. But WGN seems more focused on a woman in a pink shirt in the bleachers. One of my coworkers summed this up with one word, "shameless."
We won't talk about what happened in the Cubs' three-minute inning. Let's just say it was a quick three and out. Murray didn't get to stay in the TV booth too long.
Andy Pratt enters for the Cubs. And he is still wild. Three straight balls. Four straight balls. Craig Wilson walks. A call to the bullpen has been made. Stynes is up. Pratt hits Stynes on a ball that bounced at least 5 feet in front of Stynes. There is a meeting on the mound. Castillo is up. Ball one. Ball two. Many boos are reigning down on Pratt. Ball three as it hits home plate. Ball four high and away. The bases are loaded. Is the bullpen warm? They are stalling for time. Baker makes the change.
The e-mails are coming in on Pratt. But we will just show what Stan from Massachusetts wrote, "Andy Pratt = Mitch Williams?"
Kent Mercker is in to face pitcher Brian Meadows. And in a shocker, Mercker walks him on four pitches. Redman comes up and Mercker delivers a strike. The Wrigley crowd gives a standing ovation. Redman hits a sacrifice fly to make it 10-2.Jack Wilson flies out for out No. 2. Kendall grounds out to end the inning. Wow, that was a bit amusing and painful at the same time.
Pirates 10, Cubs 2
Chicago's Matthew Kruse writes: "A five-pitch inning for Brian Meadows in the seventh, does the entire Cub team have early dinner reservations or something?"
Matthew, someone forgot to tell Pratt.
Meadows is still pitching for the Pirates. It's that time of the game when there are so few people in the stadium that the television microphone picks up the random fan cursing. Breaking news here. First two guys get out. Ok, now the breaking news. Sosa doubles for the Cubs' second hit of the game. Alou comes to the plate. Everything is back to normal as Alou grounds out to third.
Six outs to go.
Joe Borowski comes in wearing short-sleeves. And Borowski gives up two singles to start the inning. Craig Wilson flies out for the first out. Stynes singles home a run. That's 11 for the Pirates. Another hit as Castillo singles. That's 12 as guys are on first and second with one out. Wonder if Borowski is wishing he wore a long-sleeve shirt now. The pitcher strikes out and Redman is up. Redman singles up the middle for the 13th run. That's five singles this inning. Jack Wilson is batting for the 15th time today. Wilson strikes out. It was only his seventh at-bat for the record.
Pirates 13, Cubs 2
WGN's play of the game was Bill Murray's opening toss. I guess his toss was a bit higher than some of Pratt's pitchesbarely. Two quick outs for the Cubs. The crowd goes wild as Gonzalez get the third hit of the game for the Cubs. Bako flies out to end the game.
Thanks to everyone for writing in.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times