The Cubs defeated the Pirates 3-2 Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, and isn't it nice not only for the win, but because that means we can discuss the wackiest thing that happened during the game: Junior Lake wearing the wrong road jersey for the first couple of innings.
If you missed it, here's some video explaining what happened:
I mean, I can see that happening... the jerseys are both gray, with blue letters and red numbers on the front, and blue letters and red numbers on the back. But what would this jersey be doing in Lake's locker at all, if the team isn't wearing it that day?
It was suggested in places that this might have been a prank. I dunno. Maybe. It was amusing, and most likely, had someone not pointed it out to Lake at the stadium, he might have worn the "CHICAGO" jersey for the whole game, instead of heading back to the clubhouse to change.
This also gives me another chance to talk about the new road alternate uniform. I understand what they are trying to do here, evoke an old uniform -- specifically, like these used from 1920-25 -- in an era when uniform numbers didn't exist. Thus, it appears they tried to match the numbering style to the lettering, which I think was a mistake. The Cubs' current uniform numbering style has been used for more than 70 years and is unique -- I don't know of any other sports team using the precise style the Cubs do. Thus, they should have kept it even with the block-letter "CUBS."
Frivolity and style discussion over, the Cubs played a solid game Thursday. Mike Olt hit his first major-league home run, a ball that at first didn't look like it had much carry to it; it was to the opposite field and wound up several rows deep into the seats above the out-of-town scoreboard. Emilio Bonifacio continued his ridiculous hitting; going 2-for-4, he's now 11-for-15 (.688) this season with four stolen bases. Both the hits total and SB total (with no caught stealing) lead the major leagues at this early date.
Jason Hammel threw into the seventh inning, quite well, allowing just two singles and a walk. It was left to Justin Grimm to give up the two-run double to Tony Sanchez that scored both Pittsburgh runs, one each charged to Hammel and James Russell. Sanchez, the Pirates' backup catcher, is responsible for the last three runs that the Bucs have scored.
After Grimm gave up the double, he walked Andrew McCutchen and had to be bailed out by Brian Schlitter. With Jose Veras not available after his 38-pitch monstrosity Wednesday night, Pedro Strop (who threw 15 pitches in the 16-inning game) was called on to save the game, which he did for his second Cub save (he had one last year), but not before nearly decapitating catcher John Baker in a collision attempting to catch a bunt. Strop then got Sanchez to hit a line drive right back to him and then doubled Neil Walker off first to end it.
All three Cubs games this year have thus been decided by one run, so if you are keeping track of the silly "paces" that are often noted this early in a baseball season, that means the Cubs are "on pace" for 162 one-run games this year. The first win of 2014 is also the first of Rick Renteria's managerial career.
11,418 was announced as the crowd -- surprised that wasn't higher as it means Pirates season-ticket sales didn't really go up that much after their playoff year. It looked like maybe one-third of those were actually in the park.
Site note: Josh's Iowa Cubs preview will post at 3 p.m. CT in advance of Iowa's opener this evening.
So now, it's time for the home opener at Wrigley Field, as the ballpark begins its 100th anniversary season, where the announced crowd will be much larger than Thursday's PNC gathering. Incidentally, Cubs, the video montage on the commercial for tickets that aired during the game has one shot -- early in the spot, of Ernie Banks -- that wasn't taken at Wrigley Field. (Other than that, it's nicely done.) Travis Wood will take the mound against Philadelphia's Roberto Hernandez. No, not this guy, instead it's the pitcher who used to be known as Fausto Carmona.
The weather's not supposed to be much better than it was in Pittsburgh... cool, windy and perhaps some showers. But it will be baseball... in Chicago... at Wrigley. And Junior Lake will, presumably, be wearing the white pinstripe home jersey, along with the rest of his teammates.