Opening Day a feast of firsts for Chicago

April 01, 2013|By Chris Sosa, @redeyesportschi

Opening Day in baseball is all about optimism. Even the Cubs, who lost 101 games in 2012, and the White Sox, who collapsed in September after leading the AL Central Division most of last season, can look like juggernauts after one game. We're celebrating the return of Chicago's boys of summer with our favorite firsts from Monday's 2013 curtain raisers.

First double-take

Yes, that guy starting at second base for the Cubs looks familiar. Brent Lillibridge is the player whose trade from the White Sox last season caused a 5-year-old boy to cry on a video his dad posted on YouTube. Some good news for the youngster then.

First "this is the year!" moment

One pitch. That's all Anthony Rizzo needed to make the Cubs look like World Series favorites. He crushed the first offering he saw an estimated 485 feet to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Now all he needs is a killer nickname.

First steps toward the All-Star game

To think Jeff Samardzija might have wasted all those years in the bullpen. He threw eight shutout innings while holding Pittsburgh to two hits Monday, striking out nine.

Meanwhile, Chris Sale picked up where he left off in 2012. The lefty surrendered no runs on eight hits through 7 2/3 innings against Kansas City, striking out seven.

Spectacular.

First sign of hope

Both the Cubs game at Pittsburgh and the Sox's matchup at U.S. Cellular Field—despite chilly temperatures in both cities—were announced as sellouts. If that isn't optimistic, we're not sure what is.

First deja vu moment

Oh, Carlos Marmol. The much-maligned Cubs closer struck out the first man he faced but followed it up by hitting a batter, giving up a hit and walking another. Manager Dale Sveum pulled him after that, and the Cubs barely protected a 3-0 lead. The silver lining: Japanese signee Kyuji Fujikawa earned the save.

First "Major League" reference

New Cubs TV broadcaster Jim Deshaies already has a win on the pop culture scoreboard. He pointed out how closer Carlos Marmol is not allowed to shake off his catcher's signs, and how it's "like Willie Mays Hays had to do pushups every time he hit the ball in the air." Good one, Jim.

First "A.J. who?" moment

Tyler Flowers took over for fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski as the starting catcher on the South Side. Flowers connected on a solo home run in the fifth inning Monday. More of that, please.

First unintentional audition

Bo Jackson threw out the first pitch before the Sox game Monday, and not surprisingly, he threw a perfect strike—with some nice movement, too. Hey, the Cubs might need a closer …

First sigh of relief

Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone finished Monday's broadcast on Comcast SportsNet with minimal tension. Just breathe, fellas.

First wins

And here's the best news of the day:

Cubs 3, Pittsburgh 1

White Sox 1, Kansas City 0

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