03/31/08 9:35 PM ET
Cubs fall on thrilling Opening Day
Fukudome enjoys dazzling debut, but Wood, Howry struggle
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Kosuke Fukudome went 3-for-3 in his Cubs debut, including a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning, but it wasn't enough as the Milwaukee Brewers rallied for a 4-3, 10-inning win Monday in the season opener.
"What a great start for that young man -- a really great day," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of the Japanese outfielder. "He was our whole offense."
The Cubs began the season feeling good about the bullpen, but both Wood and Bob Howry let the leadoff man get on in their respective innings, both served up two-out hits, and both times, it led to trouble.
In the Milwaukee ninth, Wood hit Rickie Weeks with the first pitch, and the Cubs opted to intentionally walk Prince Fielder to face Ryan Braun. The 2007 National League Rookie of the Year hit an RBI single, and Corey Hart followed with a two-run double to take a 3-0 lead.
"Lou came out and talked about it," Wood said of his options. "We decided to [walk Fielder]. But again, if we don't get the first guy on base, we don't have that conversation. I've just got to do a better job."
Was Wood a little too pumped?
"No, actually I was the opposite," Wood said. "I was surprised I was able to keep the adrenaline under control. It didn't work out for me."
It's all part of the learning process as the right-hander makes the conversion from starter to closer.
"Obviously, you don't want to get guys on base late in the game by walks or obviously giving them the free pass," Wood said. "It didn't work out for me today, but it's a long season."
Eric Gagne started the ninth for Milwaukee and served up a single to Derrek Lee and then walked Aramis Ramirez. With the crowd of 41,089 chanting his name, Fukudome launched a 3-1 pitch into the right-field bleachers. It was his third hit of the day and tied the game at 3.
Fukudome wasn't thinking home run, just trying to get to the next hitter.
"I saw something I could pull; I was looking for it, and it just happened to be a home run," he said through interpreter Ryuji Araki. "I didn't think we were going to win; I knew we were going to win. It was great that I hit a home run to tie the game, but because we lost the game, the value is a little less."
The Brewers won the game in the 10th against Howry as Craig Counsell doubled to lead off and advanced on Jason Kendall's sacrifice. One batter later, Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to score Counsell.
"What can I do? I just have to get him sharp, and the only way you're going to do that is by using him," Piniella said of Howry, who hasn't gotten off to good starts in the past. The right-hander said that wasn't the problem.
"I came out of spring throwing the ball much better than I have in the beginning the last two, three, four years," Howry said. "It has nothing to do with struggles. It's one game. It's not going to be the last one. It's a long year."
It was a long day. The start of the game was delayed by 41 minutes, and rain halted play again for 49 minutes after Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano struck out to begin the third inning. But cramps sidelined the right-hander. Bill Hall doubled with one out in the Brewers' seventh, and Zambrano combined with second baseman Mark DeRosa to pick him off. Big Z then seemed to have trouble flexing his right hand and was pulled from the game because of cramps in his forearm.
Zambrano is now winless in four Opening Day starts. He gave up three hits, one walk and struck out five over 6 2/3 innings.
The day began as a celebration of Ernie Banks with the unveiling of a statue of the Hall of Famer, who played for the Cubs from 1953-71. All the hoopla helped distract the crowd from the fact it's been 100 years since the Cubs won a World Series.
"It seems rather improbable -- it's a long time," Piniella said. "Let's see if we can do something about it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.