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Cubs 12, Rangers 4: Javier Baez picks up where he left off

The 2018 N.L. MVP runner-up gave notice that he’ll be a force in the league again in 2019.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s something that was helpfully pointed out to me in the hours before the Cubs opened the 2019 season:

So far... yes, that’s absolutely true. They had a DH on Opening Day in Anaheim in 2016, a 9-0 blowout of the Angels.

And so far... this season has started out the same way, with a blowout win over an A.L. West team. This time it was 12-4 over the Rangers on a sunny, summerlike day in Arlington, Texas. Now we just have to hope this year ends the same way 2016 did.

The game didn’t start out as well as we might have wanted. The Cubs went down fairly meekly in the first two innings and Jon Lester served up a two-run homer to Elvis Andrus.

Javier Baez got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth [VIDEO].

That was just the beginning of what would be a Cubs offensive explosion. David Bote was hit by a pitch leading off the fifth, Ben Zobrist singled him to third and then the Rangers fumbled around a Jason Heyward grounder that could have been a double play. Instead, Heyward had an RBI single and the game was tied.

The next hitter was Mark Zagunis, and he showed off some of the power he had in spring training [VIDEO].

Zagunis’ double scored Zobrist, giving the Cubs the lead, and sent Heyward to third. One out later, a groundout by Kris Bryant scored Heyward to make it 4-2, and after Anthony Rizzo walked, the Rangers brought in our old friend Jesse Chavez.

Javy wasn’t very nice to his old buddy [VIDEO].

That was the first pitch Chavez threw, and Javy went oppo with it for his second home run of the afternoon. Fun fact time!

The Cubs took that 7-2 lead into the sixth and added a pair on an RBI single by Albert Almora Jr. and bases-loaded walk drawn by Anthony Rizzo. Another run scored for the Cubs in the seventh after a walk by Willson Contreras, a double by Bote and walk by Zobrist loaded the bases. Heyward hit into a double play, not an ideal result in that situation obviously, but the run made it 10-2. Fun fact time!

The last such game was April 3, 2006, a 16-7 win over the Reds. Hopefully this season ends better than that one.

The Cubs got a third home run on the afternoon in the eighth inning by Kris Bryant, a two-run oppo shot to right-center field [VIDEO].

Oh, and that ball? Crushed!

That was good to see, a homer from KB on Opening Day, a real good way to start a season where he appears to be on a mission to erase the memories of his injury-ruined 2018 season.

Overall, though, the offense Thursday was so much more than just the three home runs. The Cubs used the “opportunity hitting” they were taught by Joe Maddon in spring training to great effect in this contest. Here’s an example from that big fifth inning:

Overall they posted 12 hits, five for extra bases, and drew eight (!) walks. The Cubs drew eight or more walks in a nine-inning game just seven times all of 2018, so that’s a great start on the way to having a good team on-base percentage this year. Every Cub had a hit in this game, except for Contreras, who walked twice, and Daniel Descalso, who had just one at-bat. (Yes, I know, it’s one game, and we shouldn’t extrapolate season performances from one game. Still.)

Lester settled down after Odor’s home run to post six solid innings, with four hits and two walks allowed. He struck out only three, but all in all it was a successful season debut for Jon. Randy Rosario threw a scoreless seventh, Brad Brach made his Cubs debut a success with a 1-2-3 eighth and Pedro Strop (somewhat unnecessarily, I thought, given that he’s coming off a hamstring injury) pitched the ninth and faced three batters, leaving after Hunter Pence singled. Mike Montgomery came on to record the final out, but not before he served up a two-run homer to Nomar Mazara.

The Cubs will enjoy their off day Friday and resume the 2019 season schedule Saturday evening against the Rangers, going for a series win. Yu Darvish will make his season debut against his former team and Edinson Volquez will go for the Rangers. Game time Saturday is 7:05 p.m. CT. and TV coverage Saturday will be via NBC Sports Chicago.