More of the Same

CINCINNATI – If only every day could be like Opening Day for the Cubs.

Two big innings at the plate and sloppy defense on their opponents part led the Cubs to their fourth consecutive Opening Day victory, beating the Cincinnati Reds, 16-7, at Great American Ballpark Monday. The 16 runs tied a franchise record for most runs scored by a Cubs team on Opening Day, previously set last year at Bank One Ballpark against Arizona.

The Cubs' offense came out razor sharp, scoring five runs in the first inning off Reds starter Aaron Harang. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre did just what the Cubs hoped he would when coming over from the Florida Marlins in the off-season. He started a big rally, tripling into the right field corner and scoring on Todd Walker's double down the left field line one batter later.

Later that inning with two outs, Matt Murton hit a three-run home run to cap off the scoring and give the Cubs a 5-0 lead.

"The biggest thing I was trying to do up there," Murton told reporters after the game, "I fell behind early in the count and wanted to make sure I didn't give away my at-bat. I was fortunate to get a slider up in the zone and was able to drive it."

In the bottom half of the inning, Murton made a leaping grab on a deep fly from Austin Kearns to rob the Reds right fielder of a possible game-tying grand slam.

Cub bats then stayed relatively quiet until the sixth inning when they erupted for seven runs. The Cubs used seven hits in the inning, including a two-run single by Walker, and pulled away with a 12-5 lead.

The Cubs scored three of their runs courtesy of poor defense by Reds left fielder Adam Dunn, who dropped a Jacque Jones fly ball in the first inning and miffed two plays in the sixth.

Derrek Lee, believed to be seeking a four- or five-year contract extension with the club entering the year, drew three walks and added an RBI double.

Murton, Pierre and Walker all tallied three hits as the Cubs pounded out 18 total – five shy of their mark in last year's season opener against the Diamondbacks.

"It was a big thing to have Pierre up there to start off the game with a triple and to get our offense rolling," Murton said. "The guy really battled and had some great at-bats for us today."

Carlos Zambrano was rusty in his first start and failed to make it out of the fifth inning. Zambrano squandered a 5-0 lead by walking five in 4 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits. He struck out five and threw 105 pitches, 58 of which went for strikes.

The Cubs bullpen held the Reds to two runs on four hits. Scott Eyre worked two innings in relief with Bob Howry pitching the eighth and Ryan Dempster the ninth. Left-hander Will Ohman recorded the victory, facing only one batter.

The Cubs have Tuesday off before concluding their opening two-game series with the Reds Wednesday at 11:35 a.m. CDT. The game can be seen on ESPN and Comcast Sports Net. Glendon Rusch is scheduled to make his first start of the year against newly acquired Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo.

CUBS NOTES: The Cubs improved to 4-0 under manager Dusty Baker in regular season openers and are now 73-56-2 all-time on Opening Day, including 44-36 on the road and 19-15 against the Reds. It's the first time the Cubs have won four straight season opener's since 1953, when they won six consecutive from '50-55. President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a sellout crowd of 42,591. Before the game, Mr. Bush visited the Cubs clubhouse and shook hands with players and coaches while posing for photo opportunities. He became the fourth sitting president to attend a Cubs game, joining former presidents Clinton (1999), Reagan (1988) and Taft (1909).

E-mail Steve Holley: staff@insidetheivy.com.


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