The tone was set for Sunday’s 7-4 Cubs win over the Brewers in the first two at-bats of the game, I think.
Kyle Schwarber had a five-pitch at-bat before leading off the game with a single, and through the shift, too. Schwarber seems to have really taken to the leadoff spot:
#Cubs Schwarber digging leadoff role. He began the day 1st in NL in pitches/plate appearance (4.68). Singled after 5 pitch at-bat in 1st— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 9, 2017
Then Kris Bryant worked a nine-pitch at-bat (coming from down 0-2 to 3-2) before he, too, singled. Even though Anthony Rizzo then hit a weak little ground ball in front of the plate, it advanced the runners. Ben Zobrist walked to load the bases and that set up Addison Russell, who doubled in two runs. Then Jason Heyward really squared up well on a baseball and smacked a triple to deep center field.
Really, almost before you could look up it was 4-0 against Zach Davies, who had also gotten hit hard in his first start of the year, last Monday against the Rockies. The inning got so weird that Miguel Montero stole a base. He also had one last year and one in 2015, so I suspect Miggy’s done stealing bases for this year.
Give Davies credit. He settled down and gave up just one more run. This one:
That’s Kyle’s second home run on this road trip, and he seems primed to have a big year.
Jake Arrieta was dealing all the way through. He made just one mistake, grooving one to Ryan Braun with two men on base. Braun’s three-run homer briefly made the game close at 5-3, and the overwhelmingly Cubs-centric crowd booed Braun all the way around the bases. Here’s a Brewers beat writer’s take on the crowd:
Crowd at Miller Park is 38,483. I predict heavy traffic in I-94 going south. Could be good day for Mars Cheese Castle.— Tom (@Haudricourt) April 9, 2017
The good news is that Jake finished seven innings, the first Cubs starter this year to do so, allowing just three hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. The seven-inning outing really helped save an overtaxed bullpen. Jake threw 63 strikes in his 98 pitches and now has 16 strikeouts, for the time being tied with Madison Bumgarner for the early National League lead.
Meanwhile, the Cubs tacked on two more runs in the seventh, one on Zobrist’s second homer of the season.
Two very positive signs from this one came from Bryant and Heyward. Bryant went 3-for-3 with a walk, so since he started the season 0-for-14, Kris is 7-for-11 with two doubles, a walk, two runs scored and three RBI.
Heyward had two hits on the afternoon and drove in a pair, but he also squared up a couple of other pitches quite well and lost a potential double on this outstanding catch by Braun:
Credit where credit is due, that was a terrific play. Heyward lost yet another hit on a great catch by Keon Broxton in the ninth inning on a ball that would have hit high off the wall for at least a double. Heyward tipped his helmet to Broxton after the catch. Here’s something about Heyward’s approach this year so far that I agree with:
Thing I like most about Heyward so far is that he’s using the whole field. Everything was rolled over to 2B in 2016. Timing is much better.— Gary Cohen (@GaryCohen10) April 9, 2017
Carl Edwards Jr. threw a 1-2-3 eighth (12 pitches). Hector Rondon allowed a two-out solo homer to Domingo Santana in the ninth to complete the scoring. That forced Joe Maddon to bring Wade Davis into the game for the final out — which took only one pitch.
So the Cubs meatloafed both series on their season-opening road trip and come home 4-2, ready to face their NLCS opponent from 2016, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the Wrigley Field home opener Monday evening. The team will have a banner-raising ceremony beginning about 6:15 before the 7:05 p.m. CT start, so if you’re coming to the game, plan on getting there early. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs Monday night; he’ll face Dodgers lefthander Alex Wood.