Randal Grichuk walk-off single lifts St. Louis Cardinals past Chicago Cubs in season opener

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange  |  April 3, 2017 at 1:14 AM
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ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Cubs' first game as a World Series champion was a loss.

Randal Grichuk lined a bases-loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Sunday night to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 4-3 win over the Cubs.

With one out, pinch hitter Jose Martinez lined a double off the wall in right-center off Mike Montgomery (0-1). After Yadier Molina drew the first no-pitch intentional walk under a new major league rule, Stephen Piscotty looked at a third strike.

Kolten Wong then worked a walk, setting the stage for Grichuk's second career walk-off hit -- both against Chicago.

The single made a winner of closer Seung Hwan Oh (1-0), who blew the save by giving up three runs in the top of the ninth.

The Cardinals extended their lead to what seemed like a safe 3-0 when Grichuk lined a two-run homer into their bullpen in right-center in the bottom of the eighth. But down to its last two outs, Chicago produced a stunning rally to tie the game.

With Ben Zobrist aboard after being plunked by an 0-2 pitch to start the inning, Jason Heyward was credited with an infield hit when first baseman Matt Carpenter failed to handle his chopper. Willson Contreras then unloaded a three-run homer off Oh, who had worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the eighth.

Contreras' 414-foot homer resulted in a no-decision for St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez, who was brilliant in his first Opening Day start. Carols Martinez pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits and fanning 10 with no walks.

Jon Lester pitched five-plus innings for the Cubs, allowing a run on seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. Lester threw 102 pitches as St. Louis hitters frequently worked deep counts.

Attendance was 47,566, the third-largest regular season crowd in the 12-year history of Busch Stadium III.

St. Louis opened the scoring in its half of the third with a run built on the speed it didn't display much of last year. Dexter Fowler led off with an infield hit and scooted to third on Aledmys Diaz's single that wrong-footed second baseman Javier Baez, who was leaning toward second for a potential steal.

Carpenter's sacrifice fly to right scored Fowler, but the Cardinals went 0-for-7 with six strikeouts with men in scoring position during the first three innings against Lester.

Chicago couldn't solve Martinez for five innings, managing only three hits as Martinez whiffed seven with a good mixture of sizzling fastballs and tantalizing changeups. Kyle Schwarber singled and doubled, but was left at second both times.

NOTES: This was the first time St. Louis opened a season at home under manager Mike Matheny. The last time it started a season at home was 2011, when it lost 5-3 to San Diego. ... Chicago opened its second straight year without a rookie on the roster. It started 15 of the prior 19 seasons with a rookie on the 25-man roster. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon needs just 19 wins to become the eighth active skipper to reach 1,000.

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