“It’s a great day for Aramis,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “He got a lot richer and he got a lot of hits.”
Sosa is in Baltimore and Alou in San Francisco, but the retooled Cubs set a team record for runs in an opener, topping by one their total in 1899 and 2003.
“We didn’t hit that many home runs today, but we scored a lot of runs,” Ramirez said. “That’s the kind of ballclub we’re going to be. Last year we hit a lot of home runs but we didn’t make the playoffs. This year we’re going to play a little small ball—a steal here, a hit-and-run there, and I think we’re going to get it done.”
“We’ve got a great offense,” Walker said. “You look at the career numbers of these guys one through nine and if you’re underestimating us, you don’t know much about baseball.”
Ramirez, who agreed to a $42 million, four-year deal before the game, hit a two-run double in the second and a two-run homer in the seventh.
“That’s why they kept me here,” he said, “to help the team as much as I can, and that’s what I did today.”
Winning pitcher Glendon Rusch allowed two runs in 2 2-3 innings of relief. Javier Vazquez, acquired from the New York Yankees in the Randy Johnson deal, lasted just 1 2-3 innings and allowed seven runs and 10 hits.
“It certainly wasn’t the way we wanted to start, but we have to deal with it,” new Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “It felt like three losses, but it’s only one, so that’s the bright side of it.”
For the first time since their 1998 expansion season, the Diamondbacks didn’t open with Johnson, who beat Boston in Sunday’s major league opener. Vazquez, who pitched poorly in the second half last season, was booed as he walked off the mound.
“He wasn’t his normal self,” Lee said. “I think it was probably a little too much adrenaline. He was leaving the ball up. His breaking ball wasn’t as sharp as normal.”
The Cubs were so effective that Melvin thought Vazquez might be tipping his pitches.
“It occurred to me, or at least it crossed my mind, that certainly at times they looked like they knew what was coming,” Melvin said, “so that’s something we’ll certainly take a look at on video.”
Vazquez wondered the same thing.
“I threw some good pitches, man, and they were on everything that I threw today,” he said. “It’s a little weird. Tomorrow I’ll look at some tapes and figure out what I was doing.”
The Cubs got two runs in the first and five in the second.
Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano doubled leading off the second and scored on Patterson’s single. Nomar Garciaparra doubled in another, Ramirez doubled off the center-field wall, then Lee made it 7-0 with an RBI double that finished Vazquez.
Jose Cruz Jr., one of six starters not with Arizona during its 111-loss season last year, hit a solo homer in the second. Arizona cut the lead to 7-2 when Luis Gonzalez surprised the Cubs with a bunt single down the third-base line to score Quinton McCracken from third.
Zambrano fell one out shy of earning the victory, then made a less-than-graceful exit. After walking Cruz with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Zambrano was lifted and then ejected by plate umpire Dale Scott following an exchange of words.
“I just said he needed glasses,” Zambrano said.
He gave up three runs and seven hits, throwing 106 pitches in 4 2-3 innings.
Every Chicago starter got a hit. … New Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg threw out the first ball, throwing it from his old position at second base to former Cubs teammate Mark Grace at first. … Muhammad Ali attended the game and received a standing ovation. … Vazquez has started three season openers, the other two with Montreal. … The crowd of 45,539 was about 4,000 shy of a sellout. … Arizona opens the season with a nine-game homestand.