Hooray! It's Opening Day! - Cubs vs. Braves Preview, Monday 4/5, 3:10 CT

This scene at Fenway Park last night will be repeated all over the USA today.

Baseball season's underway Well you better get ready for a brand new day. Hey, Chicago, what do you say The Cubs are gonna win today. They're singing ... Go, Cubs, go Go, Cubs, go Hey, Chicago, what do you say The Cubs are gonna win today -- Steve Goodman

Usually, this space will contain some information about the upcoming game, interesting baseball links, or Cubs news.

Today, I ask your indulgence for an Opening Day essay.

We -- you, the BCB reader, and I -- spend many hours every day on this site, discussing and arguing our viewpoints on Cubs baseball, how the team is constructed, what's up with new ownership, what's going to happen with Wrigley Field, etc. Sometimes things get a little heated -- which is fine, as long as you cut the profanity and don't personally attack anyone. If you disagree with someone's point and want to post your counterpoint -- great, just back it up with a reasonable argument and facts.

Now, though, we stand on the cusp of a new season. For those of you who have been here for a while, you know I'm optimistic by nature. I want to believe that every move Jim Hendry makes will turn to gold, that everyone coming out of the farm system will become a superstar, and that the Cubs will roll over National and American League teams and be a 100-win juggernaut on their way to a World Series championship.

That, of course, isn't even close to being realistic, and yes, I know that. But on Opening Day, don't you all hope? Don't you all believe, even though your head says "no", doesn't your heart say "maybe"? Isn't that why we are all fans of a sports team? Because deep down inside us, the little kid that first became a fan of that team believes they're the best, that they can overcome all odds and win?

We all know how long it's been for Cubs fans. If we didn't, the Eastern Sports Programming Network and other national sports creatures would certainly spare no effort to remind us on a daily basis.

I'm very aware of the flaws of this team and how many things would need to go right for them to make the playoffs, much less win it all; that's why my head picked them to finish second in the NL Central. But I have seen 13 other teams play already this year (all the Cactus League teams save the Brewers) and every single one of them has flaws, too. It's overcoming the flaws and playing to your strengths, getting every possible thing out of your abilities -- and having a little luck along the way, that makes a champion.

My heart says: maybe this year. Maybe. For a day at least, let your love for the Cubs believe so.

Go Cubs. And play ball!

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Derek Lowe
Derek Lowe
Braves
9-7 W-L 15-10
3.77 ERA 4.67
152 SO 111
78 BB 63
10 HR 16
vs. Atl -- vs. Cubs

Note: stats are 2009 final season stats

This will be Carlos Zambrano's sixth consecutive Opening Day start. That is a franchise record; the previous record of five was held by Rick Sutcliffe (1985-89) and Fergie Jenkins (1969-73). Z got ejected from his first OD start on April 4, 2005; that's a tough feat to accomplish, being tossed with a 9-3 lead after 4.2 innings, failing to get the win when your team wins 16-6. Overall in his five previous OD starts, Z has thrown 27 innings, allowed 18 walks, struck out 26 and posted a 4.67 ERA. Not great, but last year vs. Houston he was outstanding. Lifetime vs. the Braves he's 2-3, 4.48 in 11 career starts; Brian McCann (7-for-12) is the Brave who hits him best.

Derek Lowe has a reputation as a Cub-killer, but his overall numbers vs. the Cubs (2-1, 3.17 in nine starts) are just good, not great. Alfonso Soriano is 14-for-56 (only .250) lifetime vs. Lowe, but with three homers. Derrek Lee has hit him at a .400 pace (12-for-30).

Today's game is one of eight this year that will be on WCIU, which is generally only available on certain street corners in Chicago if you pay off your alderman. However, for those outside of the city, it will also be on nationally via ESPN. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Here's the way we did things last year, and it worked quite well, so I'm going to do it again this year. This preview thread, and all game previews, will post (approximately) two hours before game time (today's preview is up early because, well, I figured you'd be excited about today). The first pitch thread will go up a few minutes before first pitch, depending on how long after the hour, quarter hour, or half hour first pitch is. Today, the first pitch thread will post at 3 pm CDT. Those two will be the only threads that will post on the front page. Three overflow threads will post for each game, usually one hour, two hours, and 2:45 after first pitch. Today, that will be 4:15, 5:15 and 6 pm CDT. If a game goes into long extra innings or there's a rain delay and you need more overflows and I'm not around, post in the FanShot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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