The weather was better than just about anyone could remember for a Wrigley Field season opener.
The ballpark looked beautiful, the 1060 Project to restore and renovate it nearly complete.
Jon Lester threw two very good innings and then the offense got going, thanks in large part to some sketchy Pirates defense. An error on a ground ball by Daniel Descalso which would have been the third out put Descalso on second base. Jason Heyward was intentionally passed to pitch to Lester.
Lester’s RBI double brought in what turned out to be the only run the Cubs needed, with Heyward taking third. Ben Zobrist followed [VIDEO].
That slide into the plate by Lester would come into play later on. Meanwhile, the Cubs offense kept going. Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch and Anthony Rizzo singled in Zobrist. Javier Baez singled in Bryant and it was 5-0, and then the Pirates kicked the ball around when Kyle Schwarber hit what could have been an inning-ending ground ball. Another run scored and the Cubs had a six-run inning, and Wrigley Field felt alive.
Lester gave up hits to the first two hitters he faced in the third, there were meetings with coaches and players and the trainer, and Jon left the game in favor of Brad Brach. That slide into the plate apparently caused this:
Jon Lester exited today's game due to left hamstring tightness. pic.twitter.com/B8mqm3voI8— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 8, 2019
Here’s where I could go into my usual rant about “pitchers shouldn’t be running the bases,” but I’ll spare you that because I’m in such a good mood after this win. Fortunately, this injury does not appear serious:
Lester will have more tests done on his left hamstring Tuesday. He said he didn’t feel a pop, just a cramping sensation: “In my mind, I’m making my next start. ... Tomorrow will tell us more information.”— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 8, 2019
That’s good news, and with an off day Tuesday the Cubs can give Jon extra rest. You know, yes, I admit, it’s fun to see pitchers hit and contribute to the offense, but in my view the risk of injury like this is too great.
Anyway, that meant the bullpen had to step up, and that was a scary proposition considering how bad the pen had been the first nine games. Fortunately, this game was the one where they all decided to shine. Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Randy Rosario and Pedro Strop combined for seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and a pair of walks and striking out seven. That’s just outstanding relief work. Fun fact time!
#Cubs appearances this season of at least 2 innings with no runs allowed:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 8, 2019
First 9 games: 0
Today: 4 (Lester, Brach, Kintzler & Rosario)
Of course, the relievers had to go longer than usual because of the Lester injury, but still...
That’s just outstanding. Keep up the good work, guys.
With a 6-0 lead the cubs could have coasted, but they scored two more in the third and in the fourth, Schwarber came up with Javier Baez on base [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
In 2018, it took Kyle Schwarber until September 23rd to homer off a lefty.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 8, 2019
His homer today was off a lefty, and it's only April 8th. #Cubs
And, off a lefthander and to the opposite field!
Once that 10-0 score was put up, both managers started emptying their benches. All the position players on both rosters got into the game, giving some rest to some Cubs regulars, and neither team got close to scoring the rest of the way.
Pedro Strop, who had been a bit shaky earlier this year, threw the ninth and got himself into trouble with a leadoff single and walk. After a strikeout, the Cubs ended the game on a slick double play started by Baez, who stopped a ball headed for center field, flipped backhanded to David Bote, whose strong throw to first got Colin Moran for the final out.
Wish I had video of that last play to show you, but it’s not available. Trust me, it was a good one.
Fun fact time again!
The #Cubs have been a Major League team since 1876.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 8, 2019
This is the first time they have ever scored 10+ runs in 5 of their first 10 games.
And today’s 10-run margin of victory now means the Cubs have a 3-7 record with a run differential of ... +1. It would seem to me that the season-beginning road trip was the anomaly, and the Cubs could easily begin a long winning streak with this victory. Let’s hope so.
Wrigley Field opening days can often be a bit chaotic as fans and gameday employees get used to the routine again. I can report to you that today was one of the best home openers on that front that I can recall. Maybe it was the good weather having everyone in a good mood, maybe it was better preparation, but in general things at the gate and inside the park went quite smoothly. I didn’t have any issues with the new mobile tickets, and many of the familiar faces among the gameday folks were quite helpful. Kudos to all.
The Cubs will have Tuesday off and will resume the series against the Pirates Wednesday evening — weather permitting, and right now it doesn’t look very permissive:
A chance of rain and snow before 9am, then rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 39. East northeast wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
A 50 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a low around 37. Breezy, with an east wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.
Yuck. As good as today’s weather was, it will turn around in an instant and become more winterlike again. “Little or no snow accumulation”? Is that supposed to be encouraging? I realize the Pirates return two more times later this season, but you can be sure that the Cubs will try very hard to play at least one of the two games Wednesday or Thursday (the Thursday forecast isn’t much better). If only they could play one of those games Tuesday, when the weather will be nice.
If they play, Yu Darvish will go for the Cubs and Jordan Lyles for the Pirates. Game time Wednesday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN.