Instead, the start of the Cubs’ 100th season since winning the World Series ended in familiar fashion. Tony Gwynn hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat Chicago 4-3 on a wet Monday at Wrigley Field.
Fukudome, the team’s main offseason acquisition, went 3-for-3, hitting a tying, three-run homer in the ninth off Eric Gagne (1-0).
But it wasn’t enough for the Cubs, who haven’t even reached the World Series since 1945.
“It was a pretty good day for me, but we lost the game,” Fukudome said through a translator.
Fukudome excited the crowd of 41,089 when he doubled on his first major league pitch from Ben Sheets, then singled, walked and homered. He got ovations throughout the game, including one when he first went to right field. He tipped his cap and bowed at the beginning of what would be an auspicious start.
“He had a great day today. We don’t really have a game plan for him yet. We’ll see how we adjust to him,” said Sheets, who gave up only two hits in 6 1-3 innings, both by Fukudome. “I know he’s a good player.”
Pinch-hitter Craig Counsell opened the 10th with a double off Bob Howry (0-1) and moved up on a sacrifice. And after Rickie Weeks was hit by a pitch for the second straight inning, Gwynn delivered the go-ahead fly. David Riske pitched the bottom of the 10th for the save.
Sheets and Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano pitched shutout ball, the Cubs ace forced out in the seventh because of a forearm cramp.
But closers Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne both had rough outings.
“Gagne sputtered a little bit today but things like that happen,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “Their stopper sputtered, too. It was funny, the starters went out and pitched great and the stoppers struggled.”
The Brewers went ahead in the ninth off Wood. After the Cubs chose to intentionally walk Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun hit an RBI single before falling down coming out of the batter’s box, and Corey Hart’s two-run double made it 3-0.
The Cubs overcame Milwaukee’s 8 1/2 -game lead in late June to win the NL Central last season, but the Brewers believe they’ve learned from the experience.
“I think last year we would have lost a game like this a lot of times,” Braun said. “It was disappointing when they came back like that, but everybody stayed together, stayed tough. We were confident that we were going to come out with a win and we did.”
Zambrano allowed three hits in 6 2-3 innings. He had problems with cramping last season, as well.
“I have to take care of myself,” he said. He had just picked Bill Hall off second base when he grabbed his arm in the seventh. Earlier in the inning, he’d been knocked to the ground by Derrek Lee as they chased a pop, but he said that had nothing to do with the cramping.
Because of the 100th anniversary, even more attention has been focused on the Cubs’ travails. Manager Lou Piniella has already told his team not to worry about he past and forge its own reputation.
“How do I view it? … It’s not something I came up with, believe me,” Piniella said before the game. “It seems rather improbable. I mean a long time.”
The Cubs have another streak Piniella would like to end first.
“I read the same things that everybody else does,” he said. “Not only have the Cubs not won in 100 years, but they haven’t been in the postseason two years in a row in that span.”
The Cubs honored one of their greats, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, whose brilliant career also lacked a World Series appearance.
The team unveiled a statue of him in front of Wrigley Field on a wet afternoon. The game was delayed by 41 minutes at the start and another 49 minutes in the bottom of the third.
Sheets batted eighth, the first time in Brewers history a pitcher had batted anywhere other than ninth. … A moment of silence was observed before the game for the Northern Illinois students killed this year by a gunman on the DeKalb campus. … Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo, who began the season on the DL with torn cartilage in his left knee, could rejoin the team by the middle of the month. He is first scheduled to make a rehab start.