By JAY COHEN
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO — Starlin Castro gave it a good ride with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. The drive might have gone out at the start of the game, but the wind had shifted and it died on the warning track.
That’s how Wrigley Field’s first game of the season went for the Chicago Cubs.
Edwin Jackson got off to a rough start and the Cubs’ final rally was wiped out by the fickle breeze, giving the Milwaukee Brewers a 7-4 victory on Monday.
Chicago scored two runs in the ninth and had the bases loaded when Dave Sappelt struck out. Castro then hit a fly ball deep to right, but the wind held it up and Norichika Aoki hauled it in.
“Yeah, I had a bad feeling when we got things going there,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “We had nobody out and with those guys coming up, that wind shift was going to obviously have a factor in the game both ways, and it did.”
The wind was blowing out at the start of the game — a rare sight for an April date at the 99-year-old ballpark — and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thought Castro’s ball probably would have went off the wall at that point.
“Things went our way,” he said.
Marco Estrada pitched seven effective innings and doubled home a run, helping the Brewers stop a five-game slide. Aoki had three hits and Ryan Braun made a successful return to the lineup.
Jim Henderson picked up his first save of the season in his first opportunity since he replaced John Axford in the closer’s role.
“It’s just nice to win,” Braun said. “We needed to win.”
Estrada allowed two runs and five hits while bouncing back from a lackluster season debut against Colorado. The right-hander also drove in Alex Gonzalez with a drive into the gap in right-center during Milwaukee’s two-run seventh.
“I just kept telling myself just leave the pitches down, especially the changeup,” he said. “As long as I don’t leave balls up, I should be OK. Especially because, you know, I’m a bit of a pop-fly pitcher and I knew in this park with that wind it could be trouble.”
Welington Castillo belted a two-run homer for Chicago, which has dropped four in a row and five of six. Edwin Jackson was hit hard in his first home game since he signed a $52 million, four-year contract over the winter, surrendering five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Braun, who missed Milwaukee’s weekend sweep by Arizona due to spasms on the right side of his neck, went 3 for 4 with two doubles before he was replaced by Logan Schafer in the eighth inning. The 2011 NL MVP has at least one hit in each of his four games this season.
It was Braun’s first road game since his name surfaced in records from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic alleged to have provided banned substances to several players. After his name was connected to the clinic, he issued a statement in which he said he used the clinic’s operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant in appealing a positive drug test that was overturned last year.
Braun was lustily booed by the crowd of 40,083, but the fans hardly seemed to notice he was at the plate in the eighth after they got done jeering struggling reliever Carlos Marmol when he came on to pitch.
“Yeah, I don’t think they’ve ever cheered for me here,” Braun said with a grin. “Not too much different than it’s ever been in the past.”
The day began with a tarp over the infield as showers rolled through the area, but the grey clouds soon gave way to sunshine for an unusually warm opener at the ballpark. Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams each threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and Ernie Banks led the crowd in the singing of the “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
As soon as Jenkins and Williams left the field, the Brewers jumped all over Jackson (0-2).
With runners on first and second and two down, Jonathan Lucroy and Gonzalez had consecutive walks to force home a run. Martin Maldonado then delivered a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner, lifting Milwaukee to a 4-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Estrada (1-0), who struck out six and walked one. He was coming off a no-decision against the Rockies, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.
REDS 13, CARDINALS 4
ST. LOUIS — Brandon Phillips kick-started a nine-run ninth inning with a tiebreaking bloop double and Shin-Soo Choo made amends for two botched fly balls with a three-run double, and the Reds spoiled the Cardinals’ home opener.
Mitchell Boggs (0-1), the stand-in closer for St. Louis, yielded six runs while getting only one out and the Cardinals needed four more pitchers to get out of the ninth.
Phillips added his 150th career homer for the Reds, who have won six of seven since losing in extra innings to the Angels on opening day. Jay Bruce had four hits and Chris Heisey doubled twice with an RBI.
Sam LeCure (1-0) pitched an inning for the win.
Cardinals lefty Jamie Garcia matched his career best with 10 strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings and left with a 4-3 lead. Yadier Molina hit both of the fly balls dropped by Choo in the first and sixth, and added an RBI single.
BRAVES 2, MARLINS 0
MIAMI — Justin Upton went 4 for 4, including his sixth home run, and Paul Maholm allowed one hit in seven sharp innings to help Atlanta spoil Miami’s home opener.
The Braves earned their fourth consecutive victory and improved to 6-1, their best start since 2007. The Marlins lost their third game in a row and fell to 1-6, their worst start since 2006.
Announced attendance was 34,439, with thousands of empty seats and many tickets sold at discounted prices. Some fans pledged to stay away this season because they’re angry that owner Jeffrey Loria reverted to a frugal payroll only a year after the team opened a new ballpark built mostly with taxpayer money.
Maholm (2-0) remained unscored upon this season in 12 2-3 innings over two starts. He struck out seven and walked three.
METS 7, PHILLIES 2
PHILADELPHIA — Matt Harvey threw seven impressive innings, John Buck hit a three-run homer and the Mets roughed up Roy Halladay in a victory over the Phillies.
Harvey (2-0) followed up a dominant first start with another sharp outing. He gave up one run, three hits and struck out nine. The 24-year-old righty allowed one hit and fanned 10 in seven scoreless innings against San Diego last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Halladay (0-2) allowed seven runs and six hits in four-plus innings. He’s given up 12 runs in 7 1-3 innings in two starts after a tough spring.
YANKS 11, INDIANS 6
CLEVELAND — Travis Hafner drove in four runs in his return to Cleveland and Robinson Cano homered twice as injury-riddled New York ruined the Indians’ highly anticipated first home game under manager Terry Francona with an 11-6 win.
Hafner hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1) and added an RBI single in the third. Cano connected in the fifth and sixth for the Yankees.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) shook off a shaky, 34-pitch first and showed no signs of being bothered by a bruised right middle finger as the Yankees finally won a home opener after losing their own and Detroit’s last week.
RED SOX 3, ORIOLES 1
BOSTON — Daniel Nava hit a three-run homer, Clay Buchholz pitched seven shutout innings and the surprising Red Sox won their ninth straight home opener, beating Baltimore.
Nava broke open a scoreless duel between Buchholz (2-0) and Wei-Yin Chen (0-1) in the seventh inning with his second homer in two days.
The Red Sox are off to a strong start at 5-2 under new manager John Farrell.
ROYALS 3, TWINS 1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ervin Santana pitched eight strong innings, Alcides Escobar doubled home the go-ahead run and the Royals rallied to beat Minnesota in their home opener.
Santana (1-1), acquired from the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 31 for minor league left-hander Brandon Sisk, gave up a run and eight singles. He struck out seven, walked one and hit a batter. Santana allowed only four hits after the first inning, when the Twins scored their lone run.
Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (0-1) limited the Royals to five singles and no runs the first seven innings before Lorenzo Cain doubled to right-center to lead off the three-run eighth. After Chris Getz’s sacrifice bunt moved Cain to third, Alex Gordon singled him home to tie the score.
Escobar’s double scored Gordon and knocked Correia out of the game.