CHICAGO (AP) — Ryne Sandberg loves the way Chase Utley plays the game. The Phillies manager says the second baseman reminds him of the way he used to play during Hall of Fame career.
So of course Utley delivered on a blustery day at Wrigley Field.
Utley hit a two-run homer and an RBI single, helping Philadelphia beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 on Friday in a historic home opener at the majors’ second oldest ballpark.
“It was cold out there and the wind was blowing. It made it even colder,” Utley said. “But I thought overall we swung the bats pretty well.”
John Mayberry Jr. also had a two-run drive for his fourth career pinch-hit homer as Philadelphia bounced back after dropping the last two games of its opening series in Texas. Ben Revere and Domonic Brown had three hits apiece, and Brown also drove in two runs.
The Phillies also got a strong outing from Roberto Hernandez, who pitched into the sixth inning in his first game after signing a $4.5 million, one-year contract with Philadelphia in the offseason.
“He did his job today. He looked good,” Sandberg said. “Really liked his two-seam fastball, action on it was going down pretty good.”
Welington Castillo hit a solo homer for the Cubs, who have dropped four consecutive home openers for the first time since 1991-94. Travis Wood (0-1) struck out eight in 6 1-3 innings, but was charged with four runs, three earned, and six hits.
“I’d like to have a couple pitches back,” Wood said. “The one to Utley, the one there at the end to Revere that ended up chasing me from the ballgame.”
Wrigley Field was all dressed up for the first game of its 100th anniversary season. There were big blue banners on each side of the red sign that welcomes visitors to the beloved ballpark, and fans headed to the outfield bleachers strolled past historical pictures from the Cubs’ longtime home.
The crowd of 38,283, wearing jackets and winter hats for the chilly afternoon, roared when Sandberg joined fellow Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams on the mound for a ceremonial first pitch. Banks, Jenkins and Williams drew more cheers when they sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
“It’s a special day for me to be here, just for the festivities and the memories of opening days here,” said Sandberg, who spent 15 seasons in Chicago. “The fan base and the excitement opening day brought every year with the optimism that this is going to be the year. I thought that every single year.”
The Cubs are still waiting for that year. They last won the World Series in 1908, and many of their fans are more interested in the prospects in Chicago’s touted farm system than the players on the major league roster.
Hours before the home opener, one fan held up a sign near the Cubs’ dugout that read: “There’s Always Next Year.”
Chicago got off to a nice start when Castillo went deep in the second inning and Starlin Castro singled home a run in the third, but that was it for the Cubs’ offense.
Utley’s first homer of the season, a drive to right-center in the fifth, gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead. He also singled in Ben Revere in the seventh.
It was more than enough for Hernandez (1-0), who allowed two runs and three hits while throwing only 73 pitches in 5 1-3 innings. Sandberg said Hernandez hadn’t pitched to hitters for nine days because of a weather-related backup, and he pulled the right-hander when his velocity dipped in the sixth.
“We had some balls that just missed,” rookie Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “They ended up hitting some balls that carried a little bit more. But I think all in all, we did not go in there and have a very good plan of attack in general so it kind of cost us.”
NOTES: The game-time temperature was 38 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like 28. … Phillies LHP Cliff Lee (1-0, 14.40 ERA) faces Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Saturday … Renteria said the team is still deciding whether RHP Carlos Villanueva will start the series finale against the Phillies. Villanueva got the loss in Chicago’s first two games of the season.
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