CHICAGO -- Cubs players were not within earshot of Jed Hoyer when he spoke to reporters before Friday's 6-5 victory over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Yet they seemed to check off the bullet points of his message in the series opener. The general manager provided a candid yet honest assessment of his team's performance to start the season.
"Obviously, in three consecutive years we have fallen on our face right out of the gate in April," Hoyer said. "And it really has been kind of Groundhog Day.
"It has been closer issues in April, it has been bullpen woes. And I think in all the years we have had a better run differential and lost a lot of one-run games early. So that's really frustrating. We should be better than our record, but ultimately you are who you are."
Friday these same Cubs took on a different identity, producing clutch runs, making key defensive plays and, believe it or not, holding a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
Hector Rondon earned his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the victory for starter Travis Wood (2-3), who went seven innings.
"I need to be more aggressive, make my first pitch for strikes," Rondon said of his closer strategy. "That is big for me."
Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-3, including a home run, and drove in three runs. And catcher Welington Castillo had three doubles in the Cubs' 12-hit attack.
"I am just not trying to do too much. Just see the ball and hit it," said Rizzo, who is hitting .295 with five homers. "I just really try to swing at the pitches that I want to hit, not the pitchers' pitches."
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (5-2) lost his first ever at Wrigley Field in 17 appearances (12 starts). He is now 6-1 at the Friendly Confines with a 4.16 ERA. On Friday he lasted five innings, allowing six runs on a season-high 10 hits. He walked two and struck out four while throwing 110 pitches.
"We were able to get to Wainwright early," Wood said. "I know (Wainwright) is going to bring his 'A game' every time. We were fortunate to come out on top."
Cubs center fielder Ryan Sweeney left the game with a right hamstring injury in the eighth inning after making an excellent catch, running down a deep drive in left-center off the bat of Allen Craig with the tying run on base and no outs.
Jhonny Peralta had blasted a two-run homer off reliever Justin Grimm in the eighth to pull the Cardinals within a run before Sweeney's saving catch.
"He had great determination. He got a great jump on it ... got to it and kept his composure," manager Rick Renteria said.
Sweeney was slated to undergo an MRI after the game to determine the extent of the injury.
Rizzo's homer had led off the fifth inning to give the Cubs a 6-3 advantage.
"I was down 0-2, battling. (Wainwright) could have thrown any pitch there and just luckily I got good wood on it."
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