Adam Wainwright outpitched Jon Lester to spoil the new-look Chicago Cubs’ season opener.
It was quite a start for the St. Louis Cardinals’ pursuit of another NL Central crown.
Wainwright tossed six shutout innings and the Cardinals blanked the Cubs 3-0 to kick off the 2015 MLB season on Sunday night.
The 33-year-old Wainwright (1-0) struck out six and scattered five hits for St. Louis, which has won the last two Central Division titles and lost to the San Francisco Giants in last year’s National League Championship Series.
“He’s a bully out there. He wants to come at you,” Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward said. “He won’t give in when the batter thinks they’re going to get a good pitch to hit.”
Heyward, acquired from the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Shelby Miller to fill in for the late Oscar Taveras in right field, smacked two doubles among his three hits and scored a run.
Matt Holliday posted a pair of RBI singles, while Trevor Rosenthal picked up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
There’s a ton of optimism surrounding the Cubs despite losing 89 games last year and bringing up the rear in the division for the fifth straight season.
Not only did they add perhaps the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon, they paired him with ace left-hander Lester, who agreed to a 6-year, $155 million free agent deal during the offseason.
Lester (0-1) struggled in his Chicago debut, though, surrendering three runs on eight hits and two walks with six strikeouts over just 4 1/3 frames.
“Not much working tonight,” he said.
Few, if any teams have the young nucleus the Cubs have. Infielder Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo were All-Stars last season, while prospects Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez all started to contribute at the big league level in 2014.
Kris Bryant will join them at some point this year, but the big question is when? He did more than enough this spring to show that he belonged on the Opening Day roster, but the Cubs held him back to delay the start of his service time.
In addition to the roster upgrades, Chicago spent more than $375 million in renovations to its historic ballpark, but it apparently will take a little longer than expected. The hope is that everything will be completed by 2019.
Wrigley Field has their bleacher seats tarped up in the outfield, but the 101- year-old ballpark does sport a flashy new videoboard beyond the left field wall.
The Cardinals scored a run in each of their first two innings to start the scoring.
Heyward hit a one-out double in the first and Holliday bounced a base hit to right field to plate him. Kolten Wong worked a one-out walk and Jon Jay singled in the second before Wong came home on Matt Carpenter’s hard-hit single to right center.
Chicago, meanwhile, squandered doubles in the first two frames and again in the fifth.
St. Louis pushed across its third run in the top half of the fifth. Three straight singles by Carpenter, Heyward and Holliday made it 3-0.
Carlos Martinez, who will be the Cards’ fifth starter wearing the No. 18 in honor of Taveras this season, fired a scoreless seventh before Jordan Walden blanked the Cubs in the eighth.