Jon Lester struggles, but Cubs power way to opening 8-4 victory vs. Marlins
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MIAMI — Leadoff man Ian Happ hit the first pitch of the season over the right-field wall Thursday, and the Cubs were well on their way
Of course, it wasn’t that easy, even in a season-opening 8-4 victory against the toothless Marlins.
It was an emotion-filled day for first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a rough day on the mound for starter Jon Lester and a bruising day in left field for Kyle Schwarber.
But after a powerful performance by the lineup and the bullpen, the Cubs felt good enough about their ridiculously early start to the season that manager Joe Maddon basked, smiled and sipped from a stainless-steel cup of wine from a bottle sent by legendary film director and producer Francis Ford Coppola.
‘‘I just wanted to toast Mr. Coppola and the best movie of all time, ‘The Godfather,’ ’’ Maddon said after his postgame media briefing.
Maddon shrugged off Lester’s tough start and figures to call on him someday — perhaps Tuesday in Cincinnati — to provide more than 3 1/3 innings.
‘‘[Lester] just didn’t have his stuff,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I have no concerns.’’
Meanwhile, the Cubs did enough in their first game to show why many think they have a date with October they can’t refuse.
Happ didn’t do much after becoming the first player since the Red Sox’ Dwight Evans in 1986 to hit the first pitch of the major-league season for a home run.
But Schwarber regrouped after a face-plant into the fence on a triple in the third inning and a two-base error later in the inning to extend the Cubs’ lead with a homer in the seventh.
‘‘I moved on from it pretty quickly,’’ Schwarber said of the rough inning. ‘‘I was frustrated for a couple of minutes, but there’s still a lot of game left. You’ve got to be able to move on from it, and I did that pretty well. I was able to hit the home run there, and it felt good.’’
Maybe as impressive was that Rizzo homered in his first official at-bat during an opening trip that will be remembered more for what he has done for his hometown of Parkland, Florida, in the wake of the horrific school shooting last month.
He touched the Stoneman Douglas High School patch on his jersey and pointed to the sky after crossing the plate, a rare gesture he has made maybe three times in his career, once involving a cancer patient he had grown close to.
‘‘When I point to the sky, it’s more of a personal moment,’’ he said.
The relentless hitting on this day — which included batting around in the first and a two-run double by pinch hitter Tommy La Stella with two outs in the seventh — combined with an impressive performance by the bullpen to make the wine go down especially smoothly for Maddon.
‘‘Jonny wasn’t as sharp as he can be, but overall we played a good game of baseball,’’ Maddon said.
‘‘And here’s the thing: You’ve got nice pitching coming after. That’s what you look at. Here comes Kyle [Hendricks], here comes Yu [Darvish] and then here comes [Jose Quintana] and then here comes [Tyler] Chatwood. That really makes a difference on a nightly basis, when you can throw that good of a starting pitcher every night.’’
Especially when you can start with a 1-0 lead a pitch into the game.
‘‘I don’t think anyone in the dugout [thought] a single was coming there,’’ Schwarber, the Opening Day leadoff man last season, said of the way Happ started the game. ‘‘I think we all knew something special was going to happen right there. That was exciting.’’