White Sox, Cubs and Reds on MLB Opening Day

Alejandro De Aza

CHICAGO (AP) — As openers go, this one was promising for the Chicago White Sox.

Now, all they have to do is build on it.

Alejandro De Aza hit two homers, and Jose Abreu had two hits in his major league debut to back Chris Sale and lead the White Sox to a 5-3 season-opening victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

“It’s a big deal because of what last year was,” manager Robin Ventura said.

Last year was a 99-loss nightmare, a collapse after they finished second in the AL Central in 2012.

This year, they insist, will be better. They are off to a good start, even if they beat a team that is trying to stop a losing cycle.

Sale got the win, pitching five-hit ball into the eighth.

Paul Konerko got a loud ovation before what was likely his final opener, although he didn’t play. The White Sox got clutch hits, hustled on the bases, and played error-free ball to start the season on a winning note.

Abreu doubled on the first pitch he saw leading off the second inning against Ricky Nolasco and scored on De Aza’s two-run homer to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.

He also drove in the go-ahead run with a single during a two-run third after Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki tied it with a two-run single in the top half.

It was a good start for Abreu, who insisted he didn’t feel any real first-game jitters. That line drive double to right, on a ball that Oswaldo Arcia appeared to misjudge, didn’t hurt.

“You wanted to get that first one out of the way,” Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million deal in the offseason, said through an interpreter. “Once you get it, it’s a very happy moment. The first thing I thought of was my mother.”

Abreu’s family is expected to join him at some point this season. He wouldn’t say where his mom is, other than “somewhere close, but we can’t really comment on that.”

De Aza made it 5-2 with a solo shot just over the right-field wall in the sixth inning for his first career multihomer game. It was also the first for Chicago on opening day since Jim Thome at Cleveland in 2008, and the first by a White Sox player in a season opener at home since 1960, when Minnie Minoso hit two against the Kansas City Athletics.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker understands not everybody is going to be a fan of Major League Baseball’s expanded replay system, which threatens to slow down a sport that already struggles to be played with any sort of urgency.

Funny, there weren’t many critics to be found on Monday at PNC Park.

Walker homered off Carlos Villanueva leading off the 10th inning, and the Pirates benefited from an overturned to call to beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0.

The Pittsburgh native turned on a Villanueva changeup and sent it sailing over the Clemente Wall in right field for the first walk-off of his career and the first by the Pirates on opening day since Bob Bailey homered off San Francisco’s Juan Marichal in a 1-0, 10-inning victory in 1965.

“This one feels pretty special,” Walker said. “This is a special day for this team, this organization. We’ve come a long way.”

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Reds were unable to score after they put a runner on third with no outs. And for the first time in 61 years, they ended up getting blanked on opening day.

Yadier Molina broke a seventh-inning tie with a home run and made a pair of slick defensive plays on Monday, leading the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory.

The Reds were shut out in their season opener for the first time since 1953, ending the second-longest streak in major league history. The Phillies went 62 years without being blanked in an opener from 1911-72.

“If you had told me we would allow just one run on a solo shot, I’d take that every day, especially with our lineup,” catcher Brayan Pena said.

Adam Wainwright (1-0) used his refined sinker to finally get the best of the Reds, who have hit him like no other team. Wainwright allowed three hits in seven innings, fanning nine.

“I’ve never pitched great against the Reds,” said Wainwright, who went 1-3 against Cincinnati last season with a 7.77 ERA. “Today I wanted to make the emphasis on executing pitches. I tried to simplify it as much as possible.”

St. Louis escaped a threat in the eighth, when the Reds had runners on first and third with nobody out. Trevor Rosenthal retired all three batters in the ninth, finishing a three-hitter.

“We weren’t able to get a hit there,” said Bryan Price, who lost his managing debut. “It was disappointing, but there will be more disappointments along the way.”

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