Starlin Castro gave it a good ride with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. The drive might have gone out at the start of the game, but the wind had shifted and it died on the warning track.
That’s how Wrigley Field’s first game of the season went for the Chicago Cubs.
Edwin Jackson got off to a rough start and the Cubs’ final rally was wiped out by the fickle breeze, giving the Milwaukee Brewers a 7-4 victory on Monday.
Chicago scored two runs in the ninth and had the bases loaded when Dave Sappelt struck out. Castro then hit a fly ball deep to right, but the wind held it up and Norichika Aoki hauled it in.
“Yeah, I had a bad feeling when we got things going there,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “We had nobody out and with those guys coming up, that wind shift was going to obviously have a factor in the game both ways, and it did.”
The wind was blowing out at the start of the game — a rare sight for an April date at the 99-year-old ballpark — and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thought Castro’s ball probably would have went off the wall at that point.
“Things went our way,” he said.
Marco Estrada pitched seven effective innings and doubled home a run, helping the Brewers stop a five-game slide. Aoki had three hits and Ryan Braun made a successful return to the lineup.
Jim Henderson picked up his first save of the season in his first opportunity since he replaced John Axford in the closer’s role.
“It’s just nice to win,” Braun said. “We needed to win.”
Estrada allowed two runs and five hits while bouncing back from a lackluster season debut against Colorado. The right-hander also drove in Alex Gonzalez with a drive into the gap in right-center during Milwaukee’s two-run seventh.
“I just kept telling myself just leave the pitches down, especially the changeup,” he said. “As long as I don’t leave balls up, I should be OK. Especially because, you know, I’m a bit of a pop-fly pitcher and I knew in this park with that wind it could be trouble.”
Welington Castillo belted a two-run homer for Chicago, which has dropped four in a row and five of six. Edwin Jackson was hit hard in his first home game since he signed a $52 million, four-year contract over the winter, surrendering five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Braun, who missed Milwaukee’s weekend sweep by Arizona due to spasms on the right side of his neck, went 3 for 4 with two doubles before he was replaced by Logan Schafer in the eighth inning. The 2011 NL MVP has at least one hit in each of his four games this season.
It was Braun’s first road game since his name surfaced in records from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic alleged to have provided banned substances to several players. After his name was connected to the clinic, he issued a statement in which he said he used the clinic’s operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant in appealing a positive drug test that was overturned last year.
Braun was lustily booed by the crowd of 40,083, but the fans hardly seemed to notice he was at the plate in the eighth after they got done jeering struggling reliever Carlos Marmol when he came on to pitch.
“Yeah, I don’t think they’ve ever cheered for me here,” Braun said with a grin. “Not too much different than it’s ever been in the past.”
The day began with a tarp over the infield as showers rolled through the area, but the grey clouds soon gave way to sunshine for an unusually warm opener at the ballpark. Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams each threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and Ernie Banks led the crowd in the singing of the “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
As soon as Jenkins and Williams left the field, the Brewers jumped all over Jackson (0-2).
With runners on first and second and two down, Jonathan Lucroy and Gonzalez had consecutive walks to force home a run. Martin Maldonado then delivered a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner, lifting Milwaukee to a 4-0 lead.
The Brewers added another run in the second when Aoki reached on a leadoff double and scored on Braun’s one-out double to center.
“I just have to do a better job of executing and executing pitches when I put myself in the position to get out of a jam,” Jackson said.
That was more than enough for Estrada (1-0), who struck out six and walked one. He was coming off a no-decision against the Rockies, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.