“When the wind blows and the rain feels cold, with a head full of snow, in the window, there’s a face you know.” – The Rolling Stones, Moonlight Mile
Despite frigid temperatures and blustery winds, the Cubs opened their season at Wrigley Field yesterday with a 5-4 win over the Brewers in a game that was about as far off-script as one could possibly imagine. Kyle Hendricks outpitched Corbin Burnes, Ian Happ is off to a torrid start, Seiya Suzuki got his first big league hit, and Nico Hoerner hit Chicago’s first home run of the season.
You no longer need to miss baseball.
Unless you're facing Kyle Hendricks. pic.twitter.com/HpUEATNKMc
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 7, 2022
Baseball’s back, baby, and the Cubs beat a division rival behind a pitcher who made the Brewers look like everyone has expected their hitters to look for years now. As long as everyone means Cubs fans. All is well at Clark & Addison, enjoy your post-Opening Day hangover, please and thank you. The Brewers were 15-4 against Chicago’s North Side baseballers last season, but the Cubs have the upper hand for now.
Lost in all the festivities is something that would normally go unnoticed, but I thought David Ross handled his pitching staff better than I’ve seen in his previous two years managing the team. He didn’t overextend Hendricks, went to Chris Martin and Mychal Givens before Daniel Norris and Rowan Wick hurt the Cubs too badly, and relied on veteran David Robertson to close the game out when he could have deferred to Ethan Roberts or Scott Effross. In the past, I’ve always felt Ross struggled between being overly protective and overly passive, but he nailed it yesterday.
Certainly, a bullpen that is an intriguing mix of proven veterans and promising youth is going to remain a work in progress. The Cubs have a history of getting the most out of their relievers and Ross is a lot more comfortable once he has established predetermined bullpen roles, almost to a fault. It’s just one game, but here’s hoping he’s hitting his stride right away. Chicago is unlikely to get a complete game from Justin Steele today, so expect some of the younger relievers to get their opportunities to shine.
As far as the lineup, it was nice to see a more contact-oriented starting nine in there against Burnes. The Cubs struck out in approximately 27% of their plate appearances last year, but the reigning Cy Young winner and two relievers could induce just seven punchouts. Chicago only stranded six runners yesterday, though they were a chilly 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
It’s also worth noting that yesterday’s tilt was the first-ever between two National League teams with the universal DH in place as a collectively-bargained league rule. The Cubs and Brewers combined to go 3-for-8 amongst Rafael Ortega, Clint Frazier, and Andrew McCutchen. I’ll take that any time over watching Hendricks and Burnes wasting plate appearances.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hendricks generated 13 swings and misses with his changeup in yesterday’s contest.
- Suzuki showed impressive plate discipline, especially since the combination of pitching power and speed is something he is still unaccustomed to. He got his first career MLB hit off of Burnes in the 5th inning.
- The right fielder loved his first experience at Wrigley Field but maintained a cool, calm demeanor throughout the game.
- Hoerner’s tater could be a sign that this year’s team is going to be chock full of surprises.
- In yesterday’s Rundown, I described the Cubs as a gritty bunch that can potentially light it up against any opponent. Jed Hoyer has similar feelings about this year’s team.
- Jason Heyward welcomed reporters into the Cubs’ clubhouse for the first time since September 22, 2019.
- Four Cubs Hall of Famers threw out yesterday’s first pitch, including Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg.
- The Cubs placed Alec Mills on the 10-day injured list to get the roster down to 28 players. Mills joined Andrelton Simmons and Wade Miley, who are also on the mend.
- Congratulations to Joe Johnson, who debuted his brick-and-mortar Obvious Shirts store on Grace & Clark.
- Here’s a little something for Burnes, who I dislike so much just because he’s so good.
- James Triantos is going to be my adopted minor league follow this season. This kid is going to be special. In five years nobody is going to be too upset that Carlos Correa is playing elsewhere. I just hope I’m not being overly superlative.
Odds & Sods
You get the feeling that if baseball started as late as May 1, winter would still be kicking and screaming its way into seasonal hibernation.
Forecast for today’s 1:20 p.m Cubs-Brewers game is rough: 39 degrees at first pitch with feels-like temp even colder amid a wintry mix/rain.🥶
National Weather Service says bursts of snow possible in afternoon/evening, heaviest showers will likely fall as all snow this afternoon
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) April 8, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Kick me like you’ve kicked before, I can’t feel the pain no more.” – The Rolling Stones, Rocks Off
The most encouraging thing about yesterday’s game was that Happ was 3-for-4 with two doubles and Chicago temperatures were nowhere near the August-like 80 degrees Happer usually needs to be a hitting machine. Burnes looked nothing like the ace he was last year and Hendricks had seven strikeouts, nearly doubling the Milwaukee starter. Also nice to see…Hoerner hitting that laser beam that cleared the left-field wall. I do love his bat speed and hope he finally proves me wrong.
- Games Played: 1
- Total Plate Appearances: 35
- Total Strikeouts: 7
- Strikeout Rate: 20.0%
- Team Batting Average: .276
MLB News & Notes
Because Joe Buck left FOX Sports for ESPN to do Monday Night Football broadcasts, he’ll no longer be calling baseball games. Joe Davis was named as his replacement and he’ll be joined in the booth by John Smoltz.
In a very rare Opening Day trade, the Twins acquired starter Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan in a deal that sent Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres. The Twins will also receive a player to be named later and San Diego will receive $6.6 million in cash.
Rob Manfred continues to run a bit backward in attempting to promote baseball to the game’s next generation of fans.
Most players are in favor of PitchCom, the device MLB is using to help prohibit illegal sign-stealing while increasing the pace of play.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Seth Beer – The universal DH gives guys like Beer a role at the big league level and he didn’t disappoint, going 2-for-4 with three RBI in leading the D-Back past the Padres, 4-2.
- Tyler O’Neill – The Cardinals left fielder plated five runners in a 9-0 win over the Pirates.
- Happ – Three hits on a cold April day is nothing short of extraordinary for the switch-hitter.
“Keep hitting more,” Happ said to Hoerner with a smile. “Don’t just hit the one. I did it in Miami [in 2018] and then kinda went cold for a little bit. Try not to get cold.”
In 2018 Happ hit the first MLB home run of the season, a feat Hoerner matched yesterday, though Happ unloaded on the very first pitch of the season.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 7, 2022
They Said It
- “I‘ve been able to grasp the feeling of the game with all these at-bats coming from spring training and opening day. Obviously, all these pitchers have a different way of pitching in terms of motion and their pitch sequences. I’ve never seen that much movement and that much power at the same time, but obviously you have to get those results against great pitchers to succeed at this level.” – Suzuki
- “I was working for that for years and years to have the opportunity to make the opening-day roster. Finally, I get the opportunity to, and it’s never too late. It’s never too late to make a dream come true.” – Ortega
Friday Walk-Up Song
The Impression That I Get by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – I’ve been rough on Happ and Hoerner, and though it’s just one game, I’d love nothing more than for each to make me eat my words.