The Cubs struck first today when Jon Lester barely missed a home run to dead center in the top of the 2nd inning (video here). That shot drove in Javier Baez and the Cubs had a 1-0 lead early.
Lester pitched good, not great, today. He walked four Cardinals. Two of those walks resulted in runs. His command and control were there, but the strike calls seemed a bit inconsistent from the homeplate umpire. He left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning after issuing a walk. Pedro Strop came in with a runner on first and two outs, and proceeded to allow two runs to score.
The Cubs trailed 5-1.
A game that featured the largest attendance in Busch Stadium history, also saw Ian Happ make his big league debut.
Happ got his first hit, a two-run home run to right in the top of the 7th inning. As you can see (if you clicked on the highlighted text), he crushed a pitch that was essentially at his ankles. I knew he had some pop in his bat, but I didn’t realize he had that much pop. Overall, he had a good day at the plate, reaching base three out of four times on a walk, error, and the big homer.
Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez was a little wild today, but the Cubs were unable to make him pay for it. He showed very little ability to hit the strike zone consistently. The Cubs, however, kept swinging at his breaking stuff that, at times, was nowhere near the zone.
Kyle Schwarber had a chance to tie the game up with two outs in the top of the 9th against Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh. After Ben Zobrist singled, Schwarber hit a long drive to dead center that fell a couple feet shy of the wall and right into Dexter Fowler’s glove ending the game.
Stats that Matter
- Ian Happ crushed his first major league hit for a home run. If that sounds familiar it’s because Willson Contreras did the same thing last year. Well, he hit a home run in his first at-bat, but don’t hold that against Happ. He finished 1-for-3 on the day with the two-run homer as his only hit and he drew a walk.
- Jon Lester earned a quality start but he had to scrap to get it and still came away with the tough loss – 6.0IP, 4R/3ER, 4BB, 9K, 1HR
The Cubs offense was held in check today, but with injuries to a couple of their core guys it is not surprising to see. The upside in all of this is the opportunity it’s given to young guys like Ian Happ and Jeimer Candelario to get big league experience early in the season with the Cubs. The experience could pay dividends either later in the season, when the rosters expand, or if the Cubs decide to trade for pitching.
Tomorrow, Jake Arrieta faces Adam Wainwright at 1:15 CDT on WGN and MLB Network (out of market). Arrieta looks to continue his dominance against the Cardinals in the rubber match of the series.