If you feel good this morning about the Cubs' 2-0 win over the Braves, imagine how the players feel after finally getting that "0" out of the win column.
I thought the Braves might have enough to challenge the Phillies for the NL East title, or at least contend for the wild card, before the season started. Turns out that's an accurate assessment. The Cubs lost two of three to a pretty good ballclub with solid pitching. Rookie Jason Heyward appears as advertised, a rookie of the year candidate.
Or would you rather be the Mariners? They were expected to contend, but lost three of four to a not-so-great Athletics team. Or maybe you'd like to wake up this morning a member of the White Sox? They lost two of three to the Indians, a club that's likely destined for the AL Central basement. The Red Sox, Dodgers and Rockies, all playoff teams in 2009, all looking forward to repeats this year, all lost two of three in their opening series.
I've written this before, but it bears repeating: Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. People here were reacting to the two losses in the Braves series like they were playoff losses. Relax a little; it's way too early to panic. More on last night's win after the jump.
Lou Piniella definitely picked the right game to give Tyler Colvin his first start of the year. Colvin slammed his first major league home run off Tommy Hanson in his second at-bat of the year in the second inning. That and Marlon Byrd's solo homer, his second this season, in the fourth, were the only Cub runs. That is, I admit, a cause for concern -- since Opening Day, the Cubs offense hasn't exactly pounded the ball, scoring two runs in each of the subsequent two games. Give some credit to the pitchers -- both Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are among the top righthanders in the National League.
But so is Randy Wells, coming off last night's six shutout innings. Wells gave up only five singles and a double, along with a pair of walks, and got two double plays exactly when he needed them, to end Atlanta rallies in both the fifth and sixth innings.
Lou apparently intends to make Sean Marshall into a taller version of "Everyday Eddie" Guardado; Marshall made his third appearance in as many games, retiring both hitters he faced. Esmailin Caridad threw a nice inning, and Carlos Marmol registered his first save of the year. Marmol wasn't as sharp as he might have been; he was called on to get four outs, so he threw more pitches than many closers do (25) and didn't throw as many strikes as you'd like to see (only 15). Nevertheless, he ended the game with a perfect backdoor slider to Melky Cabrera for a called strike.
Now, what to do with Colvin? Lou said before the season even started that he was going to try to get Colvin three starts a week. The Reds are throwing three righthanders against the Cubs this weekend, so I'd be almost certain Colvin will start one of the three games, maybe in center field to give Byrd a day off. Expect Xavier Nady to make his first start in right field tonight; Colvin may wind up replacing him in the later innings.
So, the Cubs finish their first series of the year exactly one game behind the Cardinals. And the Pirates. You don't really expect the Pirates to be in that spot all year, do you? Incidentally, that's precisely where the 2008 Cubs stood after three games. Patience, and on to Cincinnati.