Ian Happ hit a leadoff homer on the first official pitch of the MLB 2018 season and Anthony Rizzo also homered to make his emotional homecoming even more memorable, leading the visiting Chicago Cubs past Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins 8-4 Thursday.
Rizzo homered into the upper deck in the second inning — an unscripted lump-in-the-throat tribute to the victims of last month’s shooting at his former high school in Parkland, Florida.
“That was probably the most out of body experience I’ve had hitting a home run in my life,” Rizzo said. “It just felt really good.”
Both teams wore patches to honor those killed, and Rizzo plans to host four families of the victims at Friday’s game. As he crossed home plate after his homer, Rizzo patted the patch on his chest and pointed to the sky.
Happ, playing in his first opening day game, pulled Jose Urena‘s first pitch into the seats. The only other time anyone hit a home run on the first pitch of the big league season was 1986, when Dwight Evans of the Red Sox connected against future Hall of Famer Jack Morris against Tiger Stadium in 1986, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
A lively crowd of 32,151 on a mild, sun-splashed afternoon – with the retractable roof open – made Marlins Park sound like Wrigley Field at times.
“Everybody heard the Cubs fans,” Marlins right fielder Garrett Cooper said. “They travel well. That’s a big baseball team, a big fan base, so you expect them to travel pretty well, and they did.”
Doubles by Kris Bryant and Wilson Contreras in the fourth put the Cubs ahead to stay, and Tommy La Stella contributed a pinch-hit, two-run double.
The Cubs bullpen, revamped after a dismal 2017 postseason, shut out Miami over the final 5 2/3 innings, allowing only one hit. Newcomer Steve Cishek (1-0) stranded four runners in two scoreless innings.
Urena (0-1) needed 36 pitches to get through the first inning, when the Cubs scored three times with only one hit. In his first opening day start, Urena allowed five runs in four innings.
In the wake of Jeter’s offseason payroll purge, 12 Marlins made an opening day roster for the first time. They included Brian Anderson, who singled home a run in each of his first two at-bats, and Cooper, who replaced NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in right field and singled home a run to make it 4-all in the third.
Another newcomer, Tayron Guerrero, struck out the first four batters he faced before allowing Schwarber’s homer.
“Our guys are going to get better as this year goes,” manager Don Mattingly said, “but I don’t see us backing away from anybody.”
– Associated Press