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Rapid Reaction: Cubs 3, Pirates 1

4/2/2013

PITTSBURGH -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day:

How it happened: Anthony Rizzo took the first pitch of the season thrown to him and deposited it over the center field fence for a two-run home run. The Cubs never looked back thanks to Jeff Samardzija, who went eight innings while giving up just two hits and one walk, retiring 14 in a row at one point. He also struck out nine. His off-speed pitches complemented his fastball just as he had hoped coming out of spring training. Starlin Castro had two hits and a stolen base while Nate Schierholtz reached base four times -- in four different ways -- in his Cubs debut with a hit, walk, hit-by-pitch and an error. He also stole a base. Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the ninth and had to be pulled in favor of James Russell and then Kyuji Fujikawa before the Cubs could declare victory -- with the tying runs left on base.

What it means: As if on cue for Opening Day, the Cubs' core guys all came through starting with Samardzija. Maybe the best thing about his performance was after a leadoff walk, and an error by last minute fill-in starter Brent Lillibridge, he got the next three batters easily. That's maturity. It's no surprise when Castro starts out hot, but it was only days ago Rizzo wasn't "feeling it" in Arizona -- he didn't homer all spring -- but one swing later his groove was back. A great start by the Cubs who really matter.

Closer struggles: The best thing to happen to the Pirates was when Marmol entered the game. He nearly walked the first batter, hit the second, gave up a hit to the third and then walked the fourth. It’s not hindsight to say he shouldn't have the closer job. He struggled at the end of spring training and plenty in his Cubs career. Fujikawa got Russell Martin to fly out to center to earn a save in his Cubs debut.

Under the radar: Welington Castillo doubled twice to the opposite field driving in the Cubs third run. By the view from the press box he called a good game as well.

Next: The 1-0 Cubs have Tuesday off before resuming the series Wednesday against the Pirates. Edwin Jackson starts for the Cubs in the 6:05 p.m. CT game.