Carlos Gimenez, the 64-year-old mayor of Miami-Dade County, delivered a crisp strike with the ceremonial first pitch.
The Marlins should have left him out there.
José Ureña’s first pitch — the first pitch of the Major League season as the Marlins and Cubs kicked things off — was crushed by Ian Happ for an upper-deck home run.
It went downhill from there in an 8-4 loss at sun-splashed Marlins Park before a crowd of 32,151, the first game for new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.
Ureña hit three batters and walked two others in a monstrosity of a first inning that required 36 pitches and consumed 20 minutes as the Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
“Obviously, it didn’t go the way we wanted,” said manager Don Mattingly.
The three hit batters matched a one-game record by a Marlins pitcher. Ureña hit all three in one inning, which equaled a Major League record.
“Some were a little close to home plate and they didn’t move,” Ureña said.
The home run pitch to Happ was a fastball right over the plate.
“He guessed and he swung, that’s all,” Ureña said. “The plan was we were going to attack the hitters with fastballs. We know they’re aggressive. They took advantage.”
Ureña was in such a funk that Mattingly sent orders to the bullpen to begin warming long reliever Jarlin Garcia.
“I couldn’t allow him to go 40 (pitches) or so right there and get himself hurt there in the first inning,” Mattingly said of Ureña. “It’s not something you want to do. It’s not ideal for opening day.”
Mattingly said Ureña was one batter from being lifted. But he avoided an early shower by retiring Cubs starter Jon Lester, a career .085 hitter, on a hard smash grounder to second.
After all that, the Marlins somehow managed to make it a contest, eventually tying it 4-4 in the third with some assistance from Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber got a terrible read on Derek Dietrich’s deep fly ball, turning what should have been an inning-opening out into a triple. Then, later in the inning, he allowed Brian Anderson’s single to get past him for a two-base error.
But that was as close as the Marlins could get.
The Cubs regained the lead with a run in the fourth off Ureña before widening the lead with three runs in the in the seventh, with Schwarber helping to make amends for his fielding troubles with a solo homer off Tayron Guerrero.
Guerrero had struck out the first four batters he faced before giving up the homer to Schwarber.
The Marlins missed out on a couple of major scoring opportunities that would have given them the lead. They had runners at first and third with one out in the fourth, but came up empty when former Marlin Steve Cishek took over for Lester and promptly struck out Starlin Castro before retiring Justin Bour on a lazy fly ball.
And they had Cishek on the ropes in the fifth when a Miguel Rojas double put runners at second and third with one out. Once again, though, Cishek wiggled out of the jam, striking out Chad Wallach and getting pinch-hitter Tomas Telis on an infield pop.
“We recovered,” Mattingly said. “But we weren’t able to execute there two innings in a row. Then all of a sudden they were allowed to add on.”
Despite the loss, the young Marlins remained optimistic. Lewis Brinson, who went 0 for 5 in his debut as a Marlin, said opponents shouldn’t “sleep on” Miami.
“We expect to win,” Brinson said. “It might be far-fetched for some people to believe, but that’s the way we’re believing in this clubhouse, and that’s the attitude we’re going to have.
“Anybody that runs out against us, they have to go through us. We have nine guys that are going to give them hell through nine innings, or however long we’re out there.”