Cubs open much-anticipated season with 9-0 win over Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Thousands of Chicago Cubs fans filled the stands at Angel Stadium with raucous chants and cheers, the usual optimism of opening day compounded by unusual excitement for their talent-laden team.
Jake Arrieta and his lineup of heavy hitters gave those fans every reason to hope they had just watched the start of something special.
Arrieta yielded two hits over seven dominant innings, Miguel Montero homered and drove in three runs, and the Cubs began a season of high expectations with a 9-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
''I think we set the tone pretty nicely for ourselves,'' Arrieta said.
Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler drove in early runs and Villanova product Matt Szczur added a three-run double in the ninth for the Cubs, who excelled in every area. Chicago couldn't wait to get going again after an exciting 97-win season ended with a dismal four-game loss to the Mets in the NL Championship Series last fall.
''We've prepared for this for a long time,'' said Arrieta, who has a 29-inning scoreless streak stretching to last season. ''The last game we played was in the NLCS. We were ready for this moment. Guys came into camp ready, with a game plan. Everybody executed appropriately.''
Chicago's anguished fans believe this team really might end the franchise's 108-year championship drought this season, and they packed the seats in Orange County to herald an auspicious start to the quest.
''We travel well,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ''It's exciting to see everybody out there. It's the Cubs, man. It's pretty cool.''
And after just the sixth opening day shutout in franchise history, the Cubs say they're ready for all expectations.
''All those feelings came right back,'' Rizzo said. ''Right after the first at-bat, we were back. (The fan support) is huge. It's what our city is about.''
Arrieta (1-0) returned from his 22-victory Cy Young Award season with another gem. In his first opening day start since 2012, the right-hander gave up two singles and a walk, never allowing the overmatched Angels to reach second base.
''He's one of the best in the league, and it was tough for us because we haven't seen him,'' said Mike Trout, who went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his fourth opening day start. ''We were just trying to see what he's got. He was just painting and hitting his spots.''
Garrett Richards (0-1) gave up three runs in five innings of six-hit ball in his first opening day start for Los Angeles.
The Angels managed just three hits while getting shut out on opening day for the first time since 2002 - the year of their only World Series championship. The Angels had never lost an opener by more than seven runs.
Montero punctuated his first opening day start as the Cubs' catcher with a two-run shot to right in the sixth off reliever Fernando Salas.
Dexter Fowler had three hits and a walk for Chicago.
Jason Heyward went 1 for 5 with a double, and Ben Zobrist had two singles in the veteran newcomers' Cubs debuts.
Albert Pujols was 0 for 3 on his first opening day as a designated hitter in the three-time NL MVP's 16 big league seasons.
Fowler doubled on Richards' second pitch and scored on Rizzo's two-out single to center.
Chicago added two more runs in the fourth on back-to-back singles by Soler and Montero while forcing Richards to throw 41 pitches in the inning.
Kole Calhoun's second-inning single was the Angels' only hit until Daniel Nava's seventh-inning single in his Los Angeles debut.
Andrelton Simmons went 0 for 3 in his Angels debut, although the gifted shortstop made a slick fielding play to limit the Cubs to one run in the seventh. Yunel Escobar went 0 for 4 and made an error in his debut at third.
Angels: RHP Jered Weaver's streak of six straight opening day starts since 2009 ended. He will throw a simulated game in Anaheim on Tuesday to make sure he's ready to return from a neck injury that slowed him in the spring. If all goes well, Weaver might start the homestand finale Sunday.
Cubs: Jon Lester begins his second season with Chicago after setting the franchise record for a left-hander with 207 strikeouts.
Angels: Left-hander Andrew Heaney is on a big league roster on opening day for the first time, and he'll face the Cubs for the first time.