CINCINNATI - With another 16-run outburst, the Cubs showed they’ve mastered the art of the fast start.
Of course, finishing has always been this franchise’s problem.
Chicago rolled to its fourth straight opening day victory Monday, 16-7 over a Cincinnati Reds team that could bring the president to town but couldn’t stop the Cubs’ run of first-game success.
Matt Murton homered in a five-run first inning, and Todd Walker singled home a pair of runs in a seven-run sixth that sent most of the capacity crowd to the exits on a windy, raw afternoon.
“It went better than we could have hoped,” said Walker, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs. “The only thing I can think is that we did the same thing last year and dropped the next two to Arizona.”
The Cubs set a franchise record for opening day runs in a 16-6 victory over Arizona last year, then wound up finishing in fourth place in the NL Central, right ahead of Cincinnati.
The Reds hadn’t given up so many runs on opening day since ’77 — 1877, that is, in a 24-6 loss to Louisville during the third month of Rutherford B. Hayes’ presidency.
“In the sixth inning, it didn’t seem like anything went our way,” manager Jerry Narron said. “It was a nightmare inning for anybody. You don’t like to see that happen to anybody, especially your own team.”
President George W. Bush threw a ceremonial pitch at the invitation of new Reds owner Bob Castellini, one of his former ownership partners in the Texas Rangers. No current president had ever thrown an opening day pitch in Cincinnati.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
They scored five runs in the first inning, completed by Murton’s three-run homer. The Reds hadn’t given up five runs in the first inning of an opener since that loss to Louisville eight years after they became baseball’s first professional team.
Then, Chicago sent a dozen batters to the plate to take control in the sixth inning, extending its stretch of impressive first games. The Cubs scored 15 runs in the 2003 opener, tying what was then the club record, and topped it with a 16-6 victory in Arizona last year that set the new standard — now tied.
It’s the first time since 1950-55 that they’ve won four consecutive openers. They’ve piled up 54 runs in those four games.
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