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Cubs drop heartbreaker on Opening Day against Rangers

3 weeks agoAndy Martinez

A difficult night was compounded by a tough loss.

The Cubs dropped the season opener against the Rangers in extra innings, 4-3, and lost their ace Justin Steele to an injury in the 5th inning. The Cubs led three different times — including once in the 9th inning — and squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the 10th.

Steele went down attempting to field a bunt from Leody Tavares in the 5th inning. He grabbed the back of his left leg and exited the game with a left hamstring strain, manager Craig Counsell said after the game.

“Likely IL,” Counsell said after the game. “Obviously an important member of the team. Looks like we’re gonna miss him for a bit here.”

[WATCH: Craig Counsell provides an update on Justin Steele]

The Rangers loaded the bases and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on a walk-off single from Jonah Heim. Drew Smyly, who entered before the inning, induced a groundout to open the extra frame, allowed a pair of walks and then forced a fielder’s choice. But Heim drilled a Smyly pitch into the right-center gap to end the game.

The Cubs had their chance in the top half of the frame and nearly had an exclamation point. With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Christopher Morel crushed a fly ball that went just a few feet left of the left field foul pole on the first pitch against David Robertson. He popped out to first base a few pitches later to kill the rally.

In the top of the 9th, the Cubs had a break go their way that seemed to put them on a path to a win.

With 2 outs, runners on first and second and an 0-1 count, pinch hitter Miles Mastrobuoni swung and hit a ball away that went past the catcher. Home plate umpire Chad Fairchild didn’t rule the play a foul ball, so Michael Busch hustled from second base and slid in at home plate ahead of the throw.

Travis Jankowski, though, balanced out the fluky bad luck for the defending champions. Pinch hitting in the bottom half of the inning, the lefty slugged a solo shot to right field off Adbert Alzolay to tie the game. He had 1 home run in all of 2023.

The Cubs took the lead in the 2nd inning. Morel led things off with a triple off the left field wall and then scored on a Dansby Swanson sacrifice fly. The Rangers tied it on a sacrifice fly in the 4th.

Back-to-back doubles by Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger in the 6th inning restored the Cubs lead. Adolis García hit a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning to knot it up once again.

After Steele’s injury Julian Merryweather picked up the final out of the 5th. Counsell then turned to Yency Almonte, who allowed the solo home run to García. Mark Leiter Jr. entered and pitched 1.2 innings with 3 strikeouts in relief.

Offseason signing Héctor Neris pitched a scoreless 8th before turning things over to Alzolay. Alzolay had just 3 blown saves in 2023.

Kyle Hendricks will take the ball Saturday against the Rangers at 6 p.m. on Marquee Sports Network. 

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