Apr 02, 2024

Imanaga dazzles Rockies in Cubs home opening victory

Posted Apr 02, 2024 2:45 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — For his warmup music ahead of his first major league start, Shota Imanaga picked The Fratellis' “Chelsea Dagger” — the goal-scoring song for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

It sure sounds as if he is feeling at home in Chicago.

Imanaga pitched six sparkling innings in his major league debut, and the Cubs used another defensive mistake by Nolan Jones to beat the Colorado Rockies 5-0 on Monday.

Working in short sleeves on a cold, gray afternoon, Imanaga struck out nine in Chicago's home opener. The Japanese left-hander, who signed a $53 million, four-year contract with the Cubs in January, allowed two singles and walked none — throwing 65 of his 92 pitches for strikes.

“What he did really well today is something that he's always done well is he threw a ton of strikes,” said manager Craig Counsell, who won his home debut with Chicago after he was hired in November. “And then with the conditions today, the walk is kind of one of the worst things you can do from a pitching standpoint.”

Dakota Hudson also was impressive in his first start for Colorado, but a pair of errors on Jones on one play in the sixth sent the right-hander to the loss.

With one out and runners on first and second in a scoreless game, Christopher Morel lined a single into left field. The ball went under the glove of a charging Jones and rolled all the way to the wall.

Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki raced home as the Wrigley Field crowd of 40,072 roared its approval. Jones' throw from the warning track got away from second baseman Brendan Rodgers in the outfield grass, and Morel scored on a headfirst slide.

Jones also dropped a routine fly ball during Sunday's 5-1 loss at Arizona, leading to two unearned runs.

“I just think I didn’t get my glove down,” he said. “It’s two days in a row that I’ve made mistakes in the outfield and lost us games. It’s unacceptable and I need to be better for our team.”

Cody Bellinger added a two-run single in the seventh as Chicago earned its second straight win after dropping the first two games of the season at Texas.

Hudson (0-1) was charged with three unearned runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He agreed to a one-year deal with Colorado in free agency.

“Good to get out there. ... Just trying to eat up some innings and keep the ball on the ground the best I could,” Hudson said.

Yency Almonte worked the seventh for Chicago before Drew Smyly finished the three-hitter.

Imanaga (1-0) was working on a no-hitter before Charlie Blackmon singled to center with two out in the sixth inning. Rodgers followed with another base hit, but Imanaga escaped the jam by fanning Jones.

“It was a unique atmosphere, especially in the last strikeout,” Imanaga said through a translator. “And it might have not been the best pitch (with) regards to pitch speed, but getting the support from the fans I was able to get that strikeout.”

Colorado got its first baserunner when Kris Bryant reached on third baseman Morel's error in the second. But Ryan McMahon and Elias Díaz struck out swinging before Ezequiel Tovar flied out, ending the inning.


Colorado left-hander Kyle Freeland and Chicago right-hander Javier Assad take the mound on Tuesday night. Freeland (0-1, 38.57 ERA) was rocked for 10 runs and 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 16-1 loss at Arizona on Thursday on opening day. Assad is making his first appearance of the season.