The Rundown: Aggressive Baserunning and Strong Pitching Give Cubs Series Win, Sinclair Rebrands RSNs, MLB Pulls All-Star Game From Atlanta
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” – Harper Lee
“At last, after creeping, as it were, for such a length of time, along the utmost verge of the opaque puddle of obscurity, they had taken that downright plunge, which, sooner or later, is the destiny of all families, whether princely or plebeian.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
It appears that Thursday afternoon wasn’t the end of the world after all. Cubs fans, who have never been totally comfortable watching winning baseball over the past six seasons, can breathe a sigh of relief because their beloved North Siders beat up on the Pirates over the final two games of the opening series. Yesterday’s 4-3 win concluded the set and the Cubs will play the Brewers for three games starting tonight before hitting the road to play Pittsburgh and Milwaukee again.
Though the Cubs had won 505 of the last 830 regular-season games they’ve played coming into this year, it seems the team’s fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So opening the season in anemic fashion against a team that is expected to win just 50-60 games this year sent said fans into near panic. Though it’s hard to draw conclusions after one game or one series, some aesthetics stood out over the first three games:
- The Cubs are stealing and aggressively taking extra bases, and it’s great to see. Perhaps manufacturing runs is the key to igniting an offense that has stalled too often in recent history. Though more hits and fewer sacrifice flies would be optimal, it’s a positive that runners who make it to third base actually score this season.
- Though Kyle Hendricks and the bullpen looked shaky on Opening Day, Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies both pitched well to close out the set and the bullpen was nearly flawless in the final two games.
- Craig Kimbrel looks positively filthy. I have 100% confidence in his ability to close a game right now, and I’m sure David Ross does, too.
- Joc Pederson looks awful against lefties so far and Pittsburgh wasn’t lining up any potential Cy Young candidates to counter his white-hot Cactus League performance. The left fielder is hitless in his first 10 at-bats.
- It was nice to see Kris Bryant hit a homer in the second game. The warm, gusty winds deserve most of the credit, but it still counts.
- Chicago’s defense doesn’t look great. They won the league’s inaugural Team Gold Glove last year, but, though they didn’t commit any errors in the three-game set, some of the fielders, particularly David Bote, looked a little off-balance at times. Anthony Rizzo prevented at least three throwing errors with great glovework, and the infield should stabilize once Nico Hoerner returns.
- Is it just me, or is Ian Happ going yard for his first hit of the season becoming a regular thing?
Craig Kimbrel has struck out 5 of 6 batters faced thus far.
4 of the 5 have been called out on strikes. pic.twitter.com/3g9a55dn0S
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 4, 2021
It goes without saying that baseball is a funny game, one game or series does not a season make, and things are never really as good or as bad as they seem at times. If you judged the Cubs by fan reactions alone, your head would spin with all of the polarizing takes. Jed Hoyer has built a team capable of playing .600 baseball and it’s probably better to enjoy the possibilities before the inevitable overhaul takes place.
Cubs News & Notes
- Davies threw 5.2 scoreless innings before the Pirates finally got to him yesterday.
- The veteran starter notched his 500th career strikeout yesterday and earned nine whiffs with a devastating changeup.
- Arrieta was very sharp in Saturday’s 5-1 win.
- For his teammates, Arrieta’s performance was a lot like going back to the future.
- Javier Báez feels a lot more comfortable playing in front of fans and reiterated his hopes of playing his entire with the Cubs.
- The shortstop and the rest of the veterans want to let their games do the talking, at least for now.
- Despite the Opening Day loss, Chicago had a number of great individual performances over the weekend.
- Both Chicago baseball teams are offering COVID-19 vaccines to their players with the hopes that they’ll meet the 85% threshold established by the league last week.
- The Cubs are one of many teams hoping the league will grant them this year’s All-Star Game after MLB decided to vacate Atlanta’s Suntrust Park due to Georgia’s new Voter ID laws, which the league views as heavily discriminatory.
- A short bench should mean increased playing time for Jake Marisnick and Eric Sogard.
- Legendary closer Bruce Sutter is sporting Cardinals red in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Egads!
Sinclair has officially debuted its newly rebranded Bally Sports RSNs across the country, but faces a tough road ahead in navigating distribution battles and rights negotiations. Though all networks aren’t yet sporting the new logo, part of the rebrand involves less screen clutter, which may be why Marquee broadcasts looked so basic this weekend. Fans looking for things like pitch count and speed, some of the over-the-top analytics, or even a scrolling scoreboard ticker, were probably disappointed.
Apropos of Nothing
Pederson drove in his first run as a Cub with a sacrifice fly in the 1st inning on Opening Day. His father, Stu, drove in one run in his MLB career, a sacrifice fly against the Reds late in the 1985 season.
Odds & Sods
“He went to Jared!” Nobody calls a walk-off home run like Matt Vasgersian. Thankfully.
Jared Walsh with a walk-off three-run homer for the Angels on Sunday Night Baseball. He knew he got it. ⚾️💣 pic.twitter.com/S5MyezIl9P
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) April 5, 2021
How About That!
White Sox outfielder Yermin Mercedes became the first MLB player to open the season with eight straight hits.
The Mets have yet to play a game this season thanks to a COVID outbreak on the Nationals that canceled their opening series, yet many of New York’s players don’t seem to be very willing to get immunized.
The Orioles swept the Red Sox this weekend, and apparently you can’t spell “championship” without any O’s.
Despite off-field headline-grabbing news in Atlanta and Washington D.C., Mercedes and the Orioles are among the game’s biggest stories of opening weekend. There was also a brawl in Cincinnati this weekend and dueling no-hitters in Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Shohei Ohtani had one of the more memorable nights ever yesterday. When he homered off of Dylan Cease in the first inning of yesterday’s contest, he became the first American League starting pitcher to homer against an AL team since Roric Harrison on the final day of the 1972 season
The Astros made a dominant statement in sweeping the A’s in their four-game set.
A bat Lou Gehrig used late in his career sold for $715,120 at a California auction this weekend.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Cedric Mullins – The Orioles center fielder let a 17-hit attack against the Red Sox with a 5-for-5 performance that included three doubles and three runs scored.
- Nick Castellanos – The right fielder is exhibiting his particular brand of big energy in the early going. Yesterday Castellanos was 2-for-4 with a home run, triple, and three RBI. His postgame interview is in midseason form, too.
- Craig Kimbrel – Dude is at the top of his game right now and it’s wonderful to watch.
Shohei is good at baseball.
Shohei Ohtani throwing a baseball 101mph followed by Shohei Ohtani hitting a baseball 115 mph. pic.twitter.com/C7jNE11qHH
— Gabe (@PIayoffTanaka) April 5, 2021
They Said It
- “I love Chicago, I love the fans, I don’t like the cold weather. But obviously, I would love to stay here for my whole career, if it’s possible. … Every player that comes through here, they see it’s different here and they love it.” – Javier Báez
- “I got a question for you. When does it become a small sample or when does it not? How does that work? Small sample size, you suck against lefties? Small sample size, you crush righties but you can’t hit righties over 500 [at-bats]? Come on! Where’s the consistency?” – David Bote
- “If he’s in that spot and locked in like that, I think we’re going to see a great version of Kris Bryant this year.” – David Ross
Monday Walk Up Song
Ode to Joy originally composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, in flash mob style, to boot. The arrow is currently pointing skyward for Cubs fans. The looks on the faces of the kids in this video are priceless.