ARLINGTON, Texas — Ah, Opening Day. The galloping hope. The gnashing teeth. The dizzying elation. The sudden loss of cabin pressure, if not the will to live.
And that’s just the first inning.
‘‘No matter how long you’re in the game, there’s a long-standing tradition of overreacting to whatever happens on Opening Day,’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said.
On Thursday, after Jon Lester threw 22 pitches in the first inning and gave up a two-run home run to the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus in the third, the ‘‘sense of urgency’’ the Cubs had vowed to bring to Epstein’s ‘‘season of reckoning’’ seemed to have slipped into a coma.
Then Javy Baez reckoned it was time for some urgent business.
In a span of two innings, he hit two homers and knocked in four runs. The Cubs won 12-4. Kris Bryant and his no-longer-injured, now-flawless shoulder also homered, which is why smoke now is coming out of the Overreaction Meter.
The Cubs are on pace for 162 victories, Baez will win the National League Most Valuable Player award and the only question is how many years manager Joe Maddon wants on his next contract.
It’s good to be king for a day.
Really, this couldn’t have gone much better for the Cubs, who talked all spring training about October beginning in March. Last season, they marched out of October with a wild-card loss to the Rockies, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of all involved. They promised to bring the aforementioned sense of urgency to this season, which, let’s face it, is what every team promises to bring to a season.
Still. Twelve runs? In one game? Remember, this was the team that needed a search party to find runs in the second half of last season. And if the roles had been reversed Thursday, if the Rangers had done the pounding, the overreaction the other way wouldn’t have been kind to the Cubs.
Baez didn’t need a newfound sense of urgency. He had it last season, when he finished second in MVP voting. He simply carried over his habit of mashing the ball all over the park into this season. It just so happened that everybody followed him this time.
‘‘With the lineup, you can really put me anywhere,’’ he said. ‘‘You’ve got guys who can hit leadoff, third, fourth, last — it doesn’t matter.’’
Baez loves a big stage, so it didn’t come as a surprise that he was the one leading the way on Opening Day. But he had company. No, he had a mob. David Bote had two hits. So did Jason Heyward. Anthony Rizzo walked three times and had a hit. Lester allowed two runs in six innings. And the Cubs were helped along by seven Rangers pitchers who yielded a combined eight walks.
‘‘We had the mentality that felt like, ‘Get the next guy up,’ ’’ Bote said. ‘‘I mean, how many walks did we draw? Quality at-bats. Grinding at-bats. No out was easy.’’
It’s always going to be like this, right? Hits everywhere? An oversupply of urgency? Opening Day responds: Of course, it’s always going to be like this.
‘‘We played with a lot of energy, man, a lot of energy, and it was really fun to watch,’’ Maddon said.
If you’re looking for a nit to pick or a buzz to kill, it came in the ninth, when Maddon pulled reliever Pedro Strop with two outs and the Cubs leading 12-2. Don’t ask me why he did that. Mike Montgomery came in and gave up a two-run homer.
The Cubs don’t play again until Saturday, which means the overreaction to this victory will be allowed to go unchecked for 48 hours. It could look like a high school pep rally by the time the first pitch is thrown Saturday.
‘‘One game’s one game,’’ Lester said. ‘‘We’re 1-0. That’s all that matters. And we scored 12. I like our guys. Everybody goes through funks. Everybody goes through ups and downs throughout a season. We’ll ride this one into Saturday.’’
I’m not sure Lester understands the beauty of overreacting to an opener. Nobody wants to hear about potential slumps. Everybody wants to hear about plans for a postseason championship parade.
It’s like this, Jon: Not only was Bryant pain-free after the game, but he used his perfectly healthy shoulder to push a woman carrying a baby out of the way of a speeding train between innings.
‘‘It’s just a lot better to overreact to a win than to a loss,’’ Epstein said.
Yes, it is.