Baseball has officially returned after four months of COVID-19 shutdown, embarking on a 60-game season that is wholly without precedent. What results such a small sample size will produce are impossible to predict, which is part of the reason for expanded playoffs. The games will feel weird, whether it’s the lack of live fans or the fake crowd noise, but baseball is back so let’s get into it.
The Cubs welcome the Brewers to a socially distanced Wrigley Field for a three-game series to begin the season. The Crew rode a monster 2019 campaign from Christian Yelich into a wild card berth that resulted in a dramatic loss to the eventual World Series champion Nationals. Interestingly enough, the Nats would not have made the playoffs after 60 games last season.
Several key offensive pieces from last year’s Brewers team have moved on, most notably Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal. The young and untested starting rotation is another weak spot. Hard-throwing Brandon Woodruff is the ace of the staff, but he only became a full-time starter last season and how the new-look Brewers gel is an open question.
The Cubs have a lot of questions of their own this season. How will the bullpen fare? Can a feast-or-famine offense find more consistency? Will Yu Darvish carry his terrific 2019 finish into 2020? Are Tyler Chatwood, José Quintana, and Alec Mills enough at the back of the rotation?
New manager David Ross will try to get more from a roster that disappointed with lackadaisical efforts at times in the final two seasons of the Joe Maddon era. The competitive window that so dramatically opened in 2015 is in danger of closing if 2020 goes badly.
The 60-game sprint is upon us and as Pat Hughes would say: “fasten those seat belts Cubs fans.”
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Friday, July 24 at 6:10pm CT on ESPN and Marquee Sports Network
- Saturday, July 25 at 12:05pm CT on FOX
- Sunday, July 26 at 1:20pm CT on Marquee Sports Network
(2019 stats displayed)
What to Watch For
- Willson Contreras has been on a home-run tear during summer camp.
- Hendricks has an improved curve ball which looks nasty.
- Anthony Rizzo looks like he’s ready after a bout of back tightness.
- Ryan Braun may actually avoid boos at Wrigley, hopefully nature will find a way to fix that.