Probable Pitching Matchups
Ryan Dempster vs. Kevin Correia
This will be Dempster’s first Opening Day assignment with the Cubs, the third of his career. He did so twice for the Marlins. The right-hander was 15-12 last season with a 3.85 ERA, totaling 200 innings for the third straight year. The newest member of the Pirates’ rotation, Correia will be making the first Opening Day start of his career. Wrigley Field hasn’t been kind to Correia in the past, but he did toss six shutout innings his last start there.
Carlos Zambrano vs. Paul Maholm
Zambrano held the franchise record for Opening Day starts, getting the assignment six years in a row. But he’s been bumped to No. 2 this season. Zambrano is eager to put last season behind him after spending part of the year in the bullpen. Maholm will start the home opener, but first he has this matchup against the Cubs. Despite his high ERA at Wrigley Field, Maholm has won five of seven starts there. No one in the rotation has as many career starts as Maholm.
Matt Garza vs. Ross Ohlendorf
Acquired from the Rays in an eight-player deal, Garza is the newest member of the Cubs rotation. This will be his first season in the NL and he’s spent a lot of time working on his bunting. Garza was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA for the Rays. The Pirates can only hope that Ohlendorf’s spring troubles don’t bleed into the season. Health is the first key. Ohlendorf must also show better efficiency and find away to stop himself from overthrowing.
Pat Lackey’s Scouting Report on the Pirates
Who’s Hot -It’s not easy to say that anyone’s hot after spring training, but Andrew McCutchen did light up the Grapefruit League with a .348/.421/.545 line. Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay also had strong springs, with both tallying four homers while hitting the ball consistently hard. That’s in line with what most people expect from the Pirates this year; if any aspect of the team will be strong it’s likely to be the starting lineup leady by McCutchen, Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata.
Who’s Not – Again, it’s hard to make this sort of judgment when there haven’t been any games that have counted yet, but for the most part the Pirates’ starting pitching was dreadful in Florida. James McDonald, who was expected to be the de fact ace after a breakout end of 2010, hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks with a strained oblique. Ross Ohlendorf gave up more than a run an inning over the whole spring. Opening day starter Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm both got hit hard with only a few exceptions. Only Charlie Morton, who was cannon fodder in 2010 despite his famed (in Pittsburgh) “electric stuff” had a good spring, and he won’t pitch against the Cubs in Wrigley this weekend. The Pirates’ best hope may be for the cold early season weather to keep run totals down until their staff finds itself.
Interesting Notes – Before 2010, the last teams in either league to finish with fewer than 600 runs scored were the 2003 editions of the Dodgers (574) and Tigers (591). The Pirates pulled it off last year with just 587 runs scored, but they were way ahead of the Mariners and their 513 runs (despite having a DH!). And the offense is the strongest part of the Pirate team this year!
Fearless Prediction for the series -Prediction? I don’t like to do this sort of thing with a full season to judge from. The Cubs are better than the Pirates, but if I can’t be hopeful in March as a Pirate fan I can’t ever be hopeful, so I’ll say the Pirates take two out of three thanks to an unexpectedly strong start from Kevin Correia in the opener and some offensive fireworks on Sunday.
Pat Lackey blogs about the Pirates for Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?
Joe’s Scouting Report on the Cubs
Who’s Hot – Starlin Castro put up some pretty intense split numbers this spring, hitting .348 / .386 / .621 with 4 HR and 15 RBI in just 21 games. That’s some serious hitting for kid that just turned 21 on my birthday. I hate to say I thought he wasn’t ready for the Majors last year. It’s embarrassing to think how wrong I was.
Who’s Not – Good God, Koyie Hill had one of the worst spring training performances I’ve ever seen. It’s a mystery why he is still on the roster. I really think that if Robinson Chirinos hadn’t been traded in the Matt Garza deal, he would have won the backup spot. Hill went 1-for-32. That’s Ted Lilly territory at the plate. I actually wonder if I was given 32 at bats if I could have managed to get wood once and luck out a hit. I know if I couldn’t Doc Raker sure could have.
Interesting Notes – The Cubs are 77-56-2 on home opening day in their history and winner of the last two. At the same time, they also went 5-10 last year against the Pirates and are 7-11 all time against them when they come to Chicago for the home opener, including two straight home opener losses to the Buccos.
Fearless Prediction for the series – I think 2010 was a mirage. I’m being bold, cocky and a bit crazy and expecting a sweep.