Baseball is back, and so is the unrelenting thunder that the Cubs can provide. We didn’t see much of it last year, but my goodness was it on display today. Bryant and Baez just smacked the Rangers around today, lets go to the video.
One pitch, one loud noise, welcome to the 2018 championship season. Ian Happ decided to send that special first pitch of the season baseball into the right field stands to set the tone today. The Cubs’ bats were in midseason form as they cranked out three dingers en route to an 8-4 opening day victory. Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber supplied the rest of the power in this one as both launched solo shots.
Jon Lester didn’t have it, period. It looked like the velocity wasn’t there, and he found himself nibbling the zone way too often, looking a lot like Jon Lester circa 2017. I wouldn’t read too much into it, Lester typically starts slow and as Maddon said after the game the little extra finish on Lester’s pitches just wasn’t there today.
Aside from the power surge the strong work of the bullpen grabbed the rest of the headlines. Newcomer Steve Cishek was tremendous as he was forced into early duty when Lester couldn’t get out of the 4th (my Dad shakes his head in disgust). Cishek worked and inning and two-thirds giving up one hit while walking one, and striking out two. The bullpen combined to go five and two-third scoreless innings while giving up just one hit.
Good start. Welcome back, baseball.
It was a day where all you had to do was “get the ball in the air, and it would go” — the problem with that is you actually have to, you know, hit the ball. That’s the one part of the equation the Cubs haven’t figured out yet this season. Anyone that follows this team religiously, like I do, knew that scoring runs would be difficult for this group, but yikes. Today’s hard to look at numbers? Two runs on three hits, that’s it, three hits today for our boys in blue.
With the lack of scoring comes the increased pressure on the pitching to not make a mistake, because one run could be it. Travis Wood pitched just fine today given the howling out wind, but made a few too many mistakes, and took the loss. The Cubs pen was also a little ragged as well, both Wesley Wright, and Brian Schlitter gave up runs to make the final score a little more ugly. Good news friends, it’s early, I think that’s a good thing.
* Photo Credit – Andrew Nelles/AP
One of the first things Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer mentioned when taking over the Cubs was how devastating late game losses can be. They were referencing the 2011 struggle of Carlos Marmol, who last year was anything but automatic in the ninth inning. Fast forward to today, and what seemed like a perfect opening day victory, enter the Chicago Cubs bullpen. With the Cubs holding a precarious 1-0 lead with two outs in the 8th inning Ryan Dempster exited the game to a standing ovation from the Wrigley faithful. That was the last thing Cubs fans had to celebrate this day, as Wood went on to walk three straight hitters, two of which he was way ahead of, to force in the tying run.
The Cubs have decided to start the 2012 season with 14 position players, and 11 bullpen guys. Sveum and company feel that with early season day offs that they will be fine carrying 11 pitchers. The Cubs claimed infielder Luis Valbuena off of waivers, so he will be the 14th position player on the active roster.
It’s always a concern, and this year is no different. Cubs opening day has been met with a number of weather conditions, snow, rain, a mix, 75 degrees and sunny, you name it and we’ve seen it. This year is not going to be one of those “pleasant” days in the stands for the Cubs fans that are lucky enough to have tickets for opening day.