The Chicago Cubs kicked off the 2019 campaign today against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Javier Baez, who finished second in MVP voting last year, wasted little time on Thursday afternoon making his offensive presence felt. Baez belted two home runs (video of first and second home runs) which helped propel the Cubs to a 12-4 victory. (Box Score)
Jon Lester was given the opening day nod for the fourth time since joining the Cubs in 2015. The Rangers drew first blood against Lester as Elvis Andrus clubbed a two-run homer giving the Rangers a 2-0 advantage in the 3rd inning.
The lead was short lived as the Cubs’ bats would start to come to life against Rangers starter Mike Minor beginning in the 4th inning. Baez launched a solo home run to left to cut the Rangers lead in half. Baez would later torch former teammate Jesse Chavez for a three-run homer in the 5th inning, making it 7-2 Cubs. It was the 5th career two-homer game for Baez.
With the game out of reach in the 8th inning, Kris Bryant laced a two-run opposite field home run to make the score 12-2.
Why the Cubs won
Baez was in midseason form, hitting two home runs. Aside from Baez’s offensive outburst, the Cubs’ hitters worked counts and got pitches to hit against Rangers pitching. The Cubs drew eights walks and 13 hits fueled multiple offensive outbursts in the 5th, 6th and 8th innings.
A strong six inning performance from Lester, who limited the Rangers to two runs on four hits with three punch outs, kept the Cubs in the game until his offense began backing up his effort.
A mishandled ball by Rangers shortstop Andrus off the bat of Heyward lead to a six-run 5th inning, which included Baez’s second home run of the game.
Stats That Matter
- Lester – 6 innings, 4 hits, 3 K’s, 2 BB and 2 runs
- Baez – Two home runs, 4 RBI, 2 runs scored
- Heyward – 2 Hits, RBI, run
- David Bote – Single, Double, 2 runs scored
- Bryant – Two run homer, 3 RBI
- Randy Rosario – 1 inning, 2 K’s
The Cubs offense, which Cubs President Theo Epstein deemed “broken” at the end of the year, put on a show in Texas. Albeit it only one game of 162, it was promising to see them taking walks, grinding out at-bats and forcing the Rangers to make pitches in the zone.
Baez and Bryant combined to drive in seven runs on the day. The Cubs will lean heavily on both of them in 2019 if they want to return to October.
After an off day on Friday the Cubs continue their series with the Rangers on Saturday, March 30, at 7:05 pm CT, as Yu Darvish opposes Edison Volquez. The game will be available on both NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score.