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03/31/08 9:04 PM ET
Resilient Brewers claim opener in 10th
Gwynn a part of two late rallies, including decisive sac fly
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The drama of the Brewers-Cubs rivalry didn't end with last year's pennant race. The Brewers took the first of 16 matchups between the National League Central rivals at Wrigley Field on Monday, but it certainly was not a knockout. A duel between starting pitchers became a nightmare for new closers, and by the time it was over, someone had made the most of his first start on Opening Day. No, that someone was not Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, though the Japanese import tormented the Brewers with three hits, including a tying three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was Brewers outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., the son of the Hall of Famer, who collected two hits, executed a two-strike bunt in the ninth that led to the Brewers' first go-ahead tally, then lifted a sacrifice fly in the 10th that gave the team a thrilling 4-3 win. "It's early, but a game against the Cubbies like that, it seems perfect," said Gwynn, who looks to get the majority of center-field starts for the Brewers while Mike Cameron serves a 25-game suspension. It was one game of 162. But it was a big one. "All the games in September are magnified, and those are the games that people pay attention to, but a win now is no different from a win then," said left fielder Ryan Braun, who also was playing his first big league Opening Day. "It's huge to come back. Last year, we would have lost a game like this." The conditions were as tough as the starting pitchers on Monday, with a 41-minute rain delay at the start of the game and then a 49-minute pause in the bottom of the third inning. Both starters -- Ben Sheets for the Brewers and Carlos Zambrano for the Cubs -- returned after the second delay and looked none the worse for it. Sheets struck out the first three hitters he faced after the delay and didn't allow another hit until Fukudome singled with one out in the seventh and prompted Brewers manager Ned Yost to make the first call to his rebuilt bullpen. Zambrano was just as sharp, at least until he exited with an arm injury in the top of the seventh. Zambrano wheeled and picked off Brewers third baseman Bill Hall at second base, but clutched his hand afterward and left with cramps in his forearm. Both teams were solid in middle relief and remained scoreless into the ninth. That's when new Cubs closer Kerry Wood plunked Rickie Weeks with his first pitch. Gwynn fell into a two-strike count but then executed his bunt, and, following an intentional walk to Prince Fielder, Braun lined a single to left field for a 1-0 Brewers lead. "You mess up the first two," Gwynn said of his bunt attempts, "you're supposed to get the third one down. He gave me a pitch I could handle."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.