PHOENIX — The wall of sound will keep building and building once Cubs fans get their first Wrigley Field look at this team since last year’s National League Championship Series.
Any disappointment from that four-game sweep by the New York Mets quickly disappeared. It didn’t sting a franchise used to heartbreak because nobody predicted 97 wins — and everyone saw how much talent would be in place for years to come.
After being anointed as a preseason World Series favorite, the Cubs haven’t quite played 4 percent of their 2016 schedule yet, but the early returns make them look as good as advertised.
The Cubs packed up after Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field and will ride a wave of momentum into a brand-new, state-of-the-art clubhouse and their 101st Wrigley Field home opener.
Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta punctuated a 5-1 road trip where the Cubs had a one-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning of the only game they lost.
After throwing seven scoreless innings against the Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels on Opening Day, Arrieta showed off a different kind of power by crushing a two-run homer off Shelby Miller in the second inning, again showing that this lineup really doesn’t have any breaks.
“Felt like hitting it off the sweet spot on a 7-iron,” Arrieta said.
Within his last 22 regular-season starts, Arrieta has now hit three home runs while allowing only four, according to Comcast SportsNet Chicago stats guru Christopher Kamka.
Arrieta set impossible standards after last year’s breakthrough season and admitted he didn’t have the same stuff to attack the Diamondbacks (2-5) with surgical precision. But he did manage to navigate a dangerous Arizona lineup, giving up three runs on eight hits across seven innings.
Maybe the Cubs will feel the pressure and expectations by September and play tight in October. But this is an extremely loose group that welcomes the hype.
Before the game, David Ross and Anthony Rizzo sung along with the Justin Bieber song (“Love Yourself”) playing on the clubhouse sound system. Hitting consultant Manny Ramirez bounced around the room, playfully tapping one reporter on the shoulder and hugging another. Justin Grimm asked who sang “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Whitney Houston) and explained how it would be an awesome walk-up song out of the bullpen.
The only what-if image would be Kyle Schwarber walking to his locker in crutches after suffering season-ending damage to his left knee. The Cubs still outscored the Angels and Diamondbacks, 42-15, combined.
“Relentless at-bats,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s nobody giving up anything. It’s bleeding up and down the lineup. It’s really fun to watch that part of it. We’re accepting our walks. We’re seeing a lot of pitches. Everybody’s feeding off the other guy.
“It’s a nice vibe to be riding back home.”
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Jorge Soler — the gifted-but-inconsistent player the Cubs hope will grab the left-field job and run with it — responded by hitting the go-ahead home run off Miller in the sixth inning and driving in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
“It’s really tough to replace a guy like (Schwarber),” Arrieta said. “But when you have a young guy with the talent that Soler has, it makes you feel pretty good about where you stand.
“That’s what I expect from our guys — top to bottom, we’re going to see contributions from (everyone). All the way up and down our lineup — that’s kind of going to be a theme of our year. We’re going to be a tough team to face — regardless of who you are.”
By late Sunday afternoon, the noise at Chase Field became a mixture of boos and the “Let’s go Cubbies!” chants from the crowd of 33,258. The Cubs will be an attraction everywhere they go this season.
The playing-for-tomorrow Cincinnati Reds have to know it will be cold and loud on Monday night at Clark and Addison, with Jon Lester taking the ball and a booming lineup ready to get the bleachers rocking again.
“It’s going to be an atmosphere that we’ve seen before,” Arrieta said. “We’ve seen some pretty incredible turnouts. Our fans are locked in from the start until the very end. That’s something you don’t see everywhere.
“Everybody’s going to be excited and ready to get after it.”