Justin Steele was very good in this one. So good, that you’ll learn below that he was the Superhero of the game. It was well deserved. He faced only 18 batters over five innings, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out five. This first time through the rotation, five innings is just fine. The rosters are deep and spring training was shorter than usual. Some of these guys just aren’t all of the way stretched out. With a fully loaded bullpen, five scoreless innings was terrific.
The story of this game though was the patience of the Cubs offense. They drew seven walks and were hit by another three pitches, meaning 10 Cubs reached safely without the benefit of a hit. They added 10 hits to that and so no wonder they piled on nine runs. All of this while only striking out eight times.
If you were involved with running the Brewers, you’d have to feel pretty confident that if you had your top three pitchers available for a series that you were always going to win at least one, you probably expect to win two most times, even on the road. Occasionally you’d win all three. To be fair, there is still one game to play and they are very capable of winning that one. But they have a realistic chance of being swept to start the season. It’s too soon to throw around terms like nightmare and catastrophic. But it’s certainly a massive disappointment for a team that won 95 games a year ago with designs on another division title.
Those of you who have followed me for the years in which I’ve been writing this series and commenting elsewhere will know that I try very hard to stay even-keeled. I never want to get too high or too low. But I’m both a human being and a longtime Cub fan. I have a tendency to get caught up in the excitement of a hot stretch. My brain is screaming that this was only two games, no matter who they were against.
But man, there sure is a part of me that wants to really start upwardly revising my hopes and expectations for this team. I think it has to be said. This team made a conscious effort to increase the contact skills among the regular hitters. The early returns suggest that Nick Madrigal and Seiya Suzuki have done that. For Madrigal, there is no reason not to include his previous MLB stats. Those would suggest that the contact skills are no fluke. For Suzuki, it will remain to be seen what happens as teams get a longer look at him and once a plan of attack is designed for him.
There is definitely a part of me that thinks that this team checked the boxes of what it wanted to do in the offseason. So why wouldn’t the team take a big step forward? I suspect that answer remains that the roster simply lacks the depth it needs to be successful. Pretty much every aspect of the team has that issue. Offense, starting pitching and relief pitching. It’s hard to imagine this roster being able to stay competitive as the grind and injuries occur that a team expects during a marathon season.
Still, it’s been fun to watch these first two games. And it is fun to dream on some larger importance of these games. It’s too soon to start revising thoughts and expectations. Just sit back and enjoy this. This team is improving and health is on the way from the system. Not a ton of it is imminently on the way, but a large chunk of it is now starting to seriously bubble up through the system. The overall talent level of the organization is increasing in leaps and bounds.
Two down. 160 to go.
Let’s get to the numbers.
Game 2, April 9: Cubs 9, Brewers 0 (2-0)
- Superhero: Justin Steele (.174). 5IP (18 batters), 4H, BB, 5K (W 1-0)
- Hero: Ian Happ (.133). 2-3, BB, HBP, 2RBI, 3R
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras/Seiya Suzuki (.064). Contreras: 1-3, BB, HBP, 2R, K; Suzuki 1-3, BB, SF, 3RBI, 2K
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.037). 1-5, 2RBI, K
- Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.019). 0-4
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.002). 1-2, 2BB, K
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ accounted for the play of the game for a second straight day. Let’s hope that the knee was just a contusion and he’s okay. He’s off to a terrific start to the season. That play of the game occurred with no outs in the first inning. Ian stood in after Brandon Woodruff had started his game by allowing a walk, hit by pitch and another walk. Happ drew a bases loaded walk and the Cubs had a run before they had either a hit or an out. (.076)
*Brewers Play of the Game: Christian Yelich batted with a runner on first and no outs in the fifth. The Cubs were leading 4-0 at the time. Yelich singled and the Brewers had first and second with no outs. (.050)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Ian Happ +5
- Justin Steele +3
- David Robertson +2
- 3 Players -1
- Chris Martin -3
- Patrick Wisdom -5
Up Next: The third and final game of this series. Marcus Stroman makes his Cubs debut. Freddy Peralta will start for the Brewers.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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