CHICAGO – The crowd roared for Joe Maddon, Jon Lester and the rest of the Chicago Cubs. There were more cheers for a tribute to Ernie Banks, and a hearty round of boos for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Then the game started, and it was the same ol' Cubbies. Same old Cardinals, too.
At least for one night.
Lester was chased in the fifth inning, and Adam Wainwright pitched the Cardinals to a 3-0 victory in the major league opener on Sunday.
"Just wasn't real sharp," Lester said. "Ball was flat. Any time I get that many fly balls I know that I'm not where I need to be."
Jason Heyward had three hits in his St. Louis debut, and Matt Holliday drove in two runs for the defending NL Central champions. Throw in Matt Carpenter's two hits at new-look Wrigley Field, and the top third of the Cardinals lineup went 7-for-14 with three RBI.
"Selfishly, I like the idea of hitting between those two," Heyward said. "Holly can do damage, and Carp sees so many pitches and has good [at-bats]. I'm going to be kind of spoiled hitting there."
Playing their most anticipated opener in years, the Cubs went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Lester, who got a $155 million, six-year contract during free agency, allowed three runs and eight hits over 4⅓ innings in his fifth consecutive Opening Day start.
"He just really hasn't had a chance to nail everything down yet, I don't think," Maddon said. "Of course, I believe he will."
The addition of Lester to go along with Maddon in the dugout increased the expectations for Chicago after five losing seasons in a row. But it was more of the same in the Cubs' first game.
The biggest difference for the home team was a giant videoboard in left field, part of a major renovation for the iconic neighborhood ballpark. The closed bleachers were covered by pictures of Banks, a Hall of Fame slugger who played for Chicago for 19 seasons and died in January at age 83.
The Cubs honored Banks with a pregame moment of silence, and his sons Jerry and Joey Banks each threw out a ceremonial first pitch.