Cubs home opener

SportsMajor League BaseballBaseballChicago CubsMatt MurtonAramis RamirezDefense

I haven't watched much baseball the first week of the season since going under the knife for the first time in my life recently. Instead I've been following doctor's orders by reclining on a couch and intermittently feeling sorry for myself while watching Champions League soccer on ESPN2.

In other words, I feel like a member of the Cubs' pitching staff or Rex Grossman, except with about half the arm strength.

So I apologize if I sound a bit out of it. But I'm pretty sure I remember how this baseball thing works. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes it rains. This being one of those times. Hey, it wouldn't be a Cubs' home opener without the threat of some kind of miserable weather. So consider yourself lucky that you're at work and not out freezing your malt cups off at the park.

Make yourself comfortable, pick up the phone, pretend you're doing some work, just keep the annoying boss at bay. It's the unveiling of the new bleachers brought to you from a medicated guy in the Bud Light Tribune Tower basement. (Full disclosure: someone many floors up from me is responsible for what you'll read about today in this space, and if the last century is any indication, it may not be pretty. Just keep that in mind. I am merely the messenger. I do not own the Cubs.)

The St. Louis Cardinals with their rabid Ozark Army in tow invade the North Side of Chicago. Thankfully for all involved the cold weather has kept the Army's customary uniform of tank tops and hemmed denim shorts in their Samsonites back at the motel. Greg Maddux takes the mound against Cardinals' right-hander Jeff Suppan.

If you click this Internet hyperlink you'll be taken to today's lineups, featuring the Cardinals' usual roster of tough outs and the Cubs, well, players.

To pass the time, feel free to take a sip of any beverage every time Len Kasper mentions "The Bud Light Bleachers."

Baseball soon.

Wayne Messmer has announced the lineups and is now doing his usual fine job with the anthem. We're close, people. Can you feel it? I guess it's disrespectful to type during The Star Spangled Banner. I'll stop.

Woo-woo Derrida, a reader on the message board, suggests we need to sell this feature and the message board. Why not. I have no shame. Any prospective advertisers out there drop me a line or get in touch with Tribune Interactive's sales staff. The Aeron Chair From the Cubicle?

That reminds me to encourage you to participate on the message board. Those people won't bite, including Linda S. Also, feel free to drop me an e-mail.

First inning

A moment of silence for the legendary Ray Meyer is followed by his son, Joey, tossing out the first pitch right over the plate. After some beer and Illinois lottery commercials, we'll be good to go. With the wind blowing in from the northeast at 25 mph, Greg Maddux throws a strike to David Eckstein. Eckstein slices the next pitch to right and Jacque Jones catches up to it on the run just in foul territory. Juan Encarnacion chops one in the hole where Ronny Cedeno takes it and then throws a one-hopper to Derrek Lee for the second out. Decent play all around. Albert Pujols cues it off the end of the bat to Juan Pierre in center for the third out.

I agree with Bob of the message board mob that the new bleachers look nice, at least on TV. It is strange to see more seats in the corners, but it doesn't look out of place. Suppan gets ahead of Pierre 1-2 before Pierre pops out to Scott Rolen. Neifi Perez chops one to second where Aaron Miles back-hands and throws to Pujols. Second base is like third base for the Cubs or left field for the Yankees. They've got a new guy there every year. Except that the Yankees and Cardinals win. Hey-hey, Derrek Lee christens The Bud Light Bleachers with a big homer to left. First pitch. Aramis Ramirez grounds out, but the Cubs take an early lead.

Cubs 1, Cardinals 0

Second inning

The warm and fuzzy and always humble Jim Edmonds leads off the second. Edmonds squibs it back to Maddux for an easy out. A healthy Rolen rips a double down the left-field line. So Taguchi grounds to second and Rolen takes third. Maddux gets Gary Bennett looking with a signature fastball on the outside corner. Rolen is stranded at third. But on the bright side, he won't have far to walk to his position.

Cubs 1, Cardinals 0

Man, Len and Bob's WGN blog is sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts and FTC has nothing! Jones pops out to Miles. Michael Barrett grounds to Rolen, bringing up the Big Murt, Matt Murton, who draws a two-out walk. Cedeno slices one over Encarnacion's head in right, Murton scores from first and Cedeno ends up on third with a triple. The kids come through. Of course, we'll see Neifi at short and John Mabry in left tomorrow. Maddux fans to end it.

Cubs 2, Cardinals 0

Third inning

Yeah, yeah, wise guy on the message board points out that "ends up at third with a triple" is redundant. I know. But it could've been ruled a double had he taken third on the throw. Miles and Suppan go down in order. Eckstein grounds out to Cedeno and that's five ground-ball outs for Maddux, Len tells us.

For the record, I didn't come up with the Big Murt for Matt Murton. Erin Davidson, a Tribune sales rep, did. I just stole it from her. Pierre bounces out to Rolen. Neifi bloops a single to center. Lee, who, according to Len, is now 13-for-26 against Suppan, digs in. Suppan wants no part of Lee, falling behind 3-0 before getting a gift strike call from home-plate ump Ron Kulpa. Perez takes off but it's ball four. Ramirez rips it on the hole. Eckstein knocks it down, but throws wild to second. Neifi scores, Lee takes third and Ramirez second. The Cardinals will walk message board favorite Jacque Jones to load them up for Barrett. Barrett pokes a 1-2 pitch through the middle, scoring Lee. Everyone moves up a base. That prompts a visit from Dave Duncan, who is going with the old school meat-head look with the towel around his neck and tucked into his jacket. You don't see that much anymore. Here's our guy, the Big Murt, the Red Menace, M&M, take your pick. Well, just Matt Murton bounces into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play. So much for Rookie of the Year, which I don't think he's eligible for. Though, I'm not sure. Onward.

Cubs 4, Cardinals 0

Fourth inning

Encarnacion reaches on what I think was ruled a hit. Cedeno threw wild from short, but I'm not sure of the ruling because I was busy approving all the message board posts. At any rate, guy on first and no outs for Pujols. Pujols works the count to 2-2 before popping out to that guy Matt Murton in left. Edmonds lifts it deep to left, where Murton nearly pulls an Adam Dunn and falls over. But our guy is tough. He makes the catch and then doubles up at first Encarnacion, who for some reason was running willy-nilly around the bases.

Cedeno bloops one to right in front of Encarnacion, hustles and beats the throw to second. The young guys are making things happen. Seriously, Mabry in left and Neifi at short tomorrow. Maddux moves Cedeno to third with some kind of butcher-boy chop. It works. Pierre lays down a suicide squeeze...but sadly it rolls foul. Unheard of. This time he swings away and rips an RBI single to right. Neifi follows with another bloop single. So two on for Lee, who bounces into a 5-4-3 DP to end it.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 0

Fifth inning

And, yes, I have to approve all the message board posts so no one slips in some arcanely profane name that I have to look up on urbandictionary.com just to make sure it's not profane in the first place. I'm sure I just opened up the floodgates. Rolen draws a lead-off walk. Taguchi then bounces into a double play. Bennett, a Waukegan guy, grounds out to Cedeno as Maddux continutes to hum along.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 0

I was just going to type Aramis Ramirez hasn't done anything yet. Well, I guess I did type that. Anyway, he rips a single to left. Jones looks at strike three and walks back to the dugout with his head down. Never thought I'd say I miss Jeromy Burnitz. Wait, I don't miss him. Barrett bounces into yet another inning-ending double play.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 0

Sixth inning

PJ, no, Lee's homer was about four rows deep. It would've stayed in even the pre-beer sponsored bleachers. Braden Looper is up in the Cards' pen, so Suppan is done. Miles grounds out and John Rodriguez will hit in the pitcher's spot. He flies out to Murton. Eckstein slaps a two-strike single to center. Eckstein then steals second. Encarnacion bloops one to shallow left that Cedeno handles to end the top half. Maddux has given up just three hits.

For those of you who have asked, I had a lateral and anterior fasciotomy on Tuesday to correct chronic anterior compartment syndrome, a runners over-use injury. The doctor who performed the surgery is the Bulls and White Sox doctor (and thankfully not the Cubs) and said I should be able to run in a month. We'll see. Thanks for your concer.

And now on to more important matters. Did everyone see this little epistolary moment of Chicago baseball solidarity yesterday?

On comes the Looper and he gets Murton to ground out. Cedeno bounces out to Rolen. Maddux grounds weakly to second and kind of just stands there stunned a bit. Maybe it stung his hands. Anyway, decent inning for the Looper.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 0

Seventh inning

Maddux appears fine. He better be because Pujols is up. Bob Howry gets up in the Cubs' pen and Pujols pops out to Neifi. Edmonds jacks a homer to right to ruin Maddux's shutout. Yes, Paul, same Erin Davidson. I'm sure she thrilled her name is all over this. The count goes full to Rolen before Maddux misses badly with ball four. Maybe it was his back he tweaked during that at-bat, as Bob Brenly mentioned. Here comes Larry Rothschild. He chats up Maddux for a second and then motions to the bullpen. There goes Maddux and here comes Howry. I think he hurt himself. I'll let you know, if the TV guys say more. Taguchi hits against Howry with one out and Rolen on first. Taguchi pops out to Neifi on the outfield grass, bringing up Waukegan Gary Bennett. Bennett lifts one to shallow right and Jones comes on and makes a nice diving catch, which maybe will get fans off his back for an inning. Maybe not.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Joey Meyer sings TMOTTBG.

Pierre grounds out to second. Jones made a really nice running play to end the top half of the seventh. The wind is really blowing in now. Neifi chops one by Pujols at first and into right. Neifi ends up on second. Paul from the Heckler, Erin asks if you still have the strength of three 10-year-olds. Or maybe she said 10 three-year-olds. Lee grounds out to Rolen and Neifi had to stay put at second. Ramirez hits it hard to left but Taguchi catches up to it to end the inning.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Eighth inning

Howry remains on the mound and he'll face Miles to open the eighth. Miles stands and looks at strike three. Joliet Scott Spiezio, who is sporting a bright red soul patch thing, hits in the pitcher's spot. Spiezio fans. It has to be said, that beard is weak. Howry gets Eckstein, as well, to strike out the side. Scott Eyre was up there for a moment in the pen.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Adam Wainwright is the new Cardinals' pitcher, replacing the Looper. Jones lines one to right (good), but it's right at Encarnacion (bad), but Encarnacion drops it (good for Cubs fans), but Jones is thrown out at second (bad). So Cubs fans go from cheering Jones to booing him again in a matter of 10 seconds. Barrett grounds out, Murton is retired and, yes, B in Boise, same Erin. We move to the ninth.

Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Ninth inning

Angel Pagan is now in left (and I'm not really sure if that was Murton who ended the eighth since I was too busy piecing together my Erin Davidson timeline.) Ryan Dempster comes on to pitch and he gets Encarnacion to bounce out to Cedeno, who has been quite busy today. Seven chances, says Len. Thanks, Len. Pujols rips it to third where Ramirez makes a nimble sliding stop, gets up and throws out Pujols. Nice play. Fans are cold but they're on their feet. Dempster fans Edmonds to end it. Maddux wins No. 319 a week before his 40th. They never said anything about his back or being injured, so maybe he's OK.

Final: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

Thanks for reading, everyone. And thanks for e-mailing and posting on the message board. And most of all, thank you, Erin Davidson, wherever you are. Stay warm.

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