Organizational Recap – How Heyward Got His Groove Back
Contrary to what has been the trend so far this year, the Cubs’ bats woke up in time for the first inning yesterday as the defending world champions put up four runs in the first half inning of play thanks to an Addison Russell two-RBI double and a Jason Heyward two-RBI triple. Ben Zobrist hit another solo home run to get to two homers on the year, and Kris Bryant recorded his first RBI of the year, as the Cubs beat the Brewers 7 to 4, taking the series. But, of course, Hector Rondon came in to pitch, and he never seems to end a game without making (and most Cub fans) nervous.
Anyway, here are some of my takeaways from the game:
I know I have expressed some hesitation about Kyle Schwarber batting lead off for the Cubs in the past, but I get more comfortable with it with every game I see. Regardless of what the result of each of his at-bats is, it always seems like he eats up a lot of pitches, making the pitcher work hard for an out right out of the gate. I love it. Per Carrie Muskat, Schwarber entered the day Sunday leading the National League in pitches per plate appearance (4.68).
After scoring four runs in the first inning, the Cubs made Davies throw 34 pitches to all nine of their hitters before the Brewers had their first at-bat.
J-Hey Is Back!…Right?
Heyward has hit in all five games he’s started this year, and he managed to go 2-for-5 yesterday with a triple and three RBI. He struck all five balls hard, but three of them were caught, one right at the wall.
I have been as skeptical as anyone about Heyward and his “new swing” and said in spring training that I would have no problem benching him to play other, better hitters despite the fact that the Cubs owe him a lot of money. (Though, I should say, his glove is often worth the problems at the plate.)
I am so happy Heyward has started hot, even though he’ll certainly cool off. I am sure it has been great for his confidence moving forward and hope that he even just produces career average numbers this year.
Bryant Starting to Produce
Bryant struggled to start the season, not getting a hit until his 16th at-bat of the season. In internet land, it looked like a lot of people were freaking out about this. I wasn’t; the baseball season is long, and a bit of a slump to start the season is nothing to freak out about if you’ve shown success in the recent past.
Saturday night, Bryant went 3-for-6 with three RBI, and Sunday afternoon, Bryant went 3-for-4 with a stolen base and a run. He looks like he’s in mid-season form now.
Zobrist Bringing the Power from the Four Hole
On Sunday afternoon, Zobrist hit his second home run of the season in the top of the seventh inning to extend the Cubs’ lead to 6-3. In 2016, Zobrist hit 18 home runs, which was the most home runs he hit in a single season dating back to 2012, his second to last season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Will he put up as many this year? Possibly. I’d love to see him hit 20 out this year.
Tonight, in the Cubs’ home opener, they’ll go up against Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Alex Wood. In 2016, the Cubs batted .333 against Wood with a .417 OBP and a .387 SLG. Jon Lester will get the start for the Cubs Monday evening, probably because the Dodgers batted .128 against him last year with a .164 OBP and a .208 SLG. It should be a good series; it will be good to have a rematch against our NLCS foe again this early in the year, as it’s likely we could see them again in the playoffs.
We have just seen the first week of the season! What are you most encouraged or discouraged about so far this year? I haven’t really been discouraged by anything, and I am most encouraged by the play of both Albert Almora, Jr. and Heyward.
AAA – Iowa 1 @ Oklahoma City 12
SP – Jake Buchanan – 5.2 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
2B – Ian Happ – 1 for 4, HR (3rd game in a row with a HR)
AA – Tennessee 3 @ Pensacola 4
SP – Preston Morrison – 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
2B – David Bote – 4 for 5, SB
A-Adv – Myrtle Beach 4 @ Lynchburg 3
SP – Oscar De La Cruz – 5 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
3B – Matt Rose – 3 for 4, 2B, HR
A – South Bend 7 vs West Michigan 1
SP – Manuel Rondon – 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
3B – Isaac Paredes – 3 for 4, 2 2B, 3 R, 1 RBI