Cubs rally on Opening Night but lose to the Cardinals 4-3

ST. LOUIS – It was an early spring night that had a November feel for the visitors.

There was adversity in the eighth inning, then some rain and then a rally. The first game of 2017 for the Cubs was looking similar to their last in 2016, when the Cubs dodged the raindrops to beat the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series for their first championship in 108 years.

This time, however, the ending didn’t work out quite as well.

Despite a rally from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, it was the Cardinals who had the late inning magic when it counted as they picked up a 4-3 walk-off victory at Busch Stadium on Sunday evening.

Randal Grichuk’s hit to left field with the bases loaded off Mike Montgomery in the bottom of the ninth gave St. Louis their second Opening Night victory over the Cubs in three seasons. It also erased a three-run homer in the top of the inning by catcher Willson Contreras that erased a 3-0 deficit and tied the game.

Montgomery, who came up with the save in the Cubs’ Game 7 win over the Indians last November, struggled in bottom half of the inning as he allowed a pair of walks and two hits that led to the winning run.

The eventful ninth inning came after the Cardinals controlled the pace for most of the evening in a low-scoring affair. Jon Lester allowed just one run in five innings of work that included seven strikeouts but he was outdueled in his time by Carlos Martines, who struck out ten in 7 1/3 scoreless innings. As rain showers started to fall in the bottom of the eighth, it looked as if St. Louis would put it away when Grichuk hit a two-run homer to right.

But the Cubs rallied in the ninth against Seung-Hwan Oh as Ben Zobrist was hit by a pitch and then Jason Heyward reached on an infield single. Contreras followed that with a towering homer to left field to tie the game up at three, but the fates wouldn’t be there later on as they were back in November.