I told you this team was better than last year’s version.
The Cubs got solid pitching, timely hitting and excellent defense in Thursday’s 2023 season opener at Wrigley Field, leading to a well-played 4-0 win over the Brewers, played in chilly 42-degree weather in front of a crowd about 5,000 short of a sellout (36,054).
Marcus Stroman was excellent in six innings of work, getting into a bit of trouble with walks (three of them), but striking out eight and being helped out by several excellent defensive plays behind him.
Here’s one of those, a nice sliding stop by Patrick Wisdom in the second [VIDEO].
Here’s another, a nice double play that ended the third [VIDEO].
This slick stop by Dansby Swanson recorded the first out of the sixth [VIDEO].
Defense matters, and Jed Hoyer and his front office specifically went out this offseason to improve team defense. One game doesn’t tell the whole story, but it sure looks like it’s on the way to being a great success.
Stroman also struck out eight [VIDEO].
The Cubs put all four runs on the board in the third inning, a long-sequence offense that featured three hits, two walks and a Milwaukee error.
With runners on first and third and one out, Swanson singled in a run and a second scored on that error [VIDEO].
Ian Happ followed with a walk, and one out later Trey Mancini drove in Swanson with a single [VIDEO].
Happ took third on that hit, and scored on this fielder’s choice hit by Yan Gomes [VIDEO].
That was it for the scoring, though the Cubs did load the bases with two out in the seventh.
After Stroman departed following his strong six-inning outing (90 pitches), Keegan Thompson, Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer combined for three innings of scoreless relief, allowing a single and a pair of walks. This sort of thing is going to be common this year, those three following a good starting appearance. Of course, Thompson can go longer if necessary.
As the headline says: “The complaint department is closed.” The Cubs did everything well in this game. They didn’t hit for power — but then most teams wouldn’t on a cold day with the wind blowing in. This is potentially a team weakness, power, but if they can put together rallies like the one in the fourth inning of this one and get solid pitching and defense — this is going to be a better year than you might think.
Remember how Dansby Swanson had a bad spring? He went 3-for-4 in this one and:
Dansby Swanson is first player to have 3+ hits in a Cubs debut since Nico Hoerner's 3 hits in his MLB debut in 2019.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 30, 2023
Swanson is the first Cub with 3+ hits in an Opening Day debut since Emilio Bonifacio (2014), and the first on Opening Day at Wrigley since Kosuke Fukudome (2008).
It was good to be back in Wrigley Field for yet another Opening Day, good to see friends and returning gameday staff. Everything ran very smoothly, from gate entry through the entire game. This was my 46th Wrigley opener (the last 41 in a row, excluding 2020 of course, plus 1971, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1979). As far as I know, today was the earliest calendar date baseball has ever been played at Wrigley Field, eclipsing March 31, which happened in 2008.
Best of all:
And that included two replay reviews, a bunch of walks, a couple of mound visits and some long counts on other at-bats. Players played baseball at a good pace and it’s SO much better to watch that way. Great work on the pitch timer!
The Cubs and Brewers will have Friday off and then resume their series Saturday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. at Wrigley Field, where it will once again be chilly (and windier!). Justin Steele will go for the Cubs and Brandon Woodruff will take the mound for Milwaukee. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.