It was a tale of two Opening Days for Chicago's two Major League Baseball teams. One club impressed in every way possible, the other not so much. All of it took place before the sun even went down.
The White Sox were the first team to show off their 2010 selves and their premiere couldn't have been more perfect. A combination of solid pitching, hitting, and defense translated into an easy 6-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. Every Sox fan in the stands at sold-out U.S. Cellular Field would tell you afterwards that they got their money's worth.
Mark Buehrle was the star of the game. Making his club-record eighth Opening Day start, the veteran southpaw threw 95 pitches over seven shutout innings and showed why he won a Gold Glove last year when he recovered a ball that ricocheted off his ankle into foul territory and made a backhand flip to Paul Konerko, who caught the ball bare-handed for the out. It was a defensive play that may top any other in baseball this season and it was only the first game of the year.
After Buehrle departed, setup men J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton were virtually untouched in two innings of relief. Konerko and Alex Rios each chipped in on offense with home runs. Rios made the final out of the game with a diving catch—the cherry on the top to an all-around perfect day on the South Side.
Things weren't so perfect for the Cubs down in Atlanta. Things looked promising in the first inning as Marlon Byrd hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat as a North Sider. Carlos Zambrano, who didn't last two innings, gave all three of those runs right back however and then served up a three-run homer to Braves rookie phenom Jason Heyward in his first big league at-bat. The Cubs would never recover and lost 16-5.
In the bullpen, Jeff Samardzija gave up four earned runs in only a third of an inning of work. In the field, Zambrano and Derrek Lee each made throwing errors. A lot of things went wrong in a forgettable opener for the Cubs.
There were some bright spots on offense though. Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer to drive in the Cubs' other two runs. Kosuke Fukudome hit 2-for-3 and scored two runs. Besides Byrd, Ramirez, and Fukudome however, the bats didn't show up.
After wrapping up their opening series, both Chicago teams will have to contend with divisional opponents this weekend. The Cubs will travel to Cincinnati to play the Reds, who aren’t expected to be in the hunt for the divisional title but should be a more than worthy opponent.
The White Sox, meanwhile, will remain at home to face off against their arch rivals, the Minnesota Twins, who are considered one of the favorites to win the AL Central despite the loss of dominant closer Joe Nathan.
The 2010 baseball season is less than a week old, but some competitive action in Chicago is underway.
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