The Cubs did some good things today, getting hits with runners in scoring position was not one of them. But about those good things, the Cubs pitching was stellar, and their defense was just as good. Jeff Samardzija loves facing the Pirates, especially in Pittsburgh, one year after going eight scoreless against the Buccos, he went seven scoreless but settled for a no decision. Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and James Russell all did their job out of the bullpen, Carlos Villanueva, not so much. Villanueva faced one batter, and that was it, Neil Walker blasted a walk-off home run to move the Cubs to 0-1 on the young season.
The Cubs struggles were front and center at the plate as they went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, yikes. They also struck out a lot, eleven times to be exact as they were baffled by Francisco Liriano all day long. I did like the Cubs approach today though, as they worked deep counts and were able to get to the Pirates pen by the 7th inning, it just didn’t work out. Emilio Bonifacio had a big day at the plate in his debut as he went 4-for-5 with a double, the Cubs as a whole only had six hits in the loss.
* Photo credit: GENE PUSKAR/AP
Opening Day is upon us, one of my most favorite days of the year. Jeff Samardzija, who owns the Pirates will take on Francisco Liriano, who owns the Cubs, something’s gotta give, or the bullpens will decide it. Below are the lineups, first pitch is at 12:05 PM CST, and the game is on ESPN (outside of Chicago), and WGN TV.
Monday, March 31, 2014 – 12:05 PM CST
(TV: ESPN, WGN) (RADIO: WGN 720)
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 – 6:05 PM CST
(TV: CSN+) (RADIO: WGN 720)
Thursday, April 3, 2014 – 11:35 AM CST
(TV: MLBN, CSN) (RADIO: WGN 720)
— Series Vitals —
— Pitching Matchups —
Samardzija (Career vs. Pirates) (4 – 3; 2.11 ERA, 18 appearances, 7 starts)
Liriano (Career vs. Cubs) (3 – 2; 2.72 ERA, 6 appearances, 6 starts)
Jackson (Career vs. Pirates) (6 – 2; 3.19 ERA, 10 appearances, 10 starts)
Morton (Career vs. Cubs) (2 – 4; 4.91 ERA, 9 appearances, 9 starts)
Hammel (Career vs. Pirates) (2 – 1; 4.35 ERA, 4 appearances, 3 starts)
Rodriguez (Career vs. Cubs) (9 – 7; 3.60 ERA, 24 appearances, 24 starts)
— Weather —
Today, the Cubs announced that Jeff Samardzija will open the season in Pittsburgh, as he did in 2013. Rick Renteria said it was an easy decision to make, and I would have to agree, Shark is the top guy while he is here with this group. I’m not sure Travis Wood was given any consideration, but wouldn’t be surprised if he was given his stellar 2013. Wood will follow Samardzija, and Edwin Jackson will pitch game three in Pittsburgh, just a short 17 days away.
The Cubs did a lot of things well today, hitting with runners in scoring position was not one of them. The Cubs registered nine hits, took five walks, but were a paltry 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left eleven men on base. Solid performances up and down the Cubs pitching staff as well, only allowing one run on four hits.
At the Plate:
- Emilio Bonifacio did well out of the lead off spot today going 2-for-4 with two singles and a stolen base.
- Anthony Rizzo has had a hot start to the spring, he continued that today as he went 2-for-3 with two singles. Rizzo is now five for his last seven, and is hitting .500 in Cactus League play.
- Mike Olt, Logan Watkins, Albert Almora, and Darwin Barney all had one hit in the loss. Almora got the start in center, and Olt started at third, both went 1-for-3.
On the Mound:
- Travis Wood was brilliant today, much like he was all of last year. Wood worked three scoreless innings giving up one hit while striking out three.
- Justin Grimm took the loss as he struggled a bit in the inning he worked. Grimm gave up one run on two hits while walking one, and striking out one.
- Hector Rondon, Chang-Yong Lim, Marcus Hatley, and Tommy Hottovy combined to work four scoreless innings, giving up only one hit while walking one, and striking out three (each pitcher tossed one inning).