The Rundown: Cubs Offense Clicks in Season Opener, Harper Booed in Phillies Debut, Fallout from Haunted 2011 GM Meetings
On a day where the ghosts of baseball past are often referenced, the Cubs exorcized all of the demons they have been carrying around since last fall by pummeling the Rangers 12-4 in Arlington yesterday. Javy Báez kicked off his 2019 MVP campaign in grand style, going 2-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI.
.@javy23baez hits the first #Cubs home run of 2019.
Then he hits the second! #EverybodyIn pic.twitter.com/M9p5H8yUWQ
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 28, 2019
Báez greeted Rangers reliever Jesse Chavez with a three-run homer in the 5th inning to give the Cubs a 7-2 lead. The Cubs shortstop, who hit 34 homers and led the NL with 111 RBI last season, hit a solo homer in his previous at-bat against starter Mike Minor.
The offensive outburst was a welcome start to the season, considering the Cubs could muster no more than one run in a quarter of their games last season. The Cubs looked relaxed and confident yesterday, driving a lot of pitches to the gaps and finishing 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position while reaching base 24 times in 48 plate appearances. Willson Contreras was the only starter without a hit in the game.
For me, the best moment of the game was Mark Zagunis legging out a 5th inning double that scored Jason Heyward, giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
Cubs News & Notes
- Jon Lester (1-0) won his first opening day start since 2013 with the Red Sox. The lefty lost Boston’s 2014 opener, and dropped his debut with the Cubs in 2015 before no-decisions the last two years.
- After a winter of discontent and soul searching, the Cubs newfound urgency was on full display in yesterday’s victory.
- Kris Bryant hit his first home run of the season yesterday, a line shot to right-center.
- Yu Darvish is healthy and confident and excited to face the Rangers on Saturday.
- Cubs Insider was first with the news that top prospect Nico Hoerner has been assigned to Double-A Tennessee.
- I don’t have a link, but Mark DeRosa indicated on MLB Central yesterday that he believes the Cubs are going to sign closer Craig Kimbrel at some point. Kimbrel could be a value signing for the Cubs or any other team that needs a closer if he is still available in June. Not that it means anything, but DeRo and Kimbrel are buddies.
- Oh, for the days of Harry Caray in the broadcast booth.
How About That!
Milwaukee reliever Corey Knebel says he will decide today on the next course of action for his ailing right arm. The Brewers closer is sidelined with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He could have season-ending Tommy John surgery or try to rehab the injury.
Josh Hader worked two innings yesterday to earn the save in the Brewers’ 5-4 victory over the Cardinals. However, he required a lot of help from Lorenzo Cain, who had a dramatic, game-ending catch to rob Jose Martinez:
? #NotToday pic.twitter.com/RkKj1FrK4A
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 28, 2019
It’s very strange that the baseball season started with Kimbrel still searching for a job.
The following players had two-homer games yesterday: Báez, Kolten Wong, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Tim Beckham.
Prized rookie Eloy Jimenez was 0-for-3 with an RBI HBP in yesterday’s 5-3 White Sox loss to the Royals.
First baseman Luke Voit hit the first home run of the day and the 14th of his career yesterday. Voit made his Yankees debut on Aug. 2 last year, and from then to the end of the regular season, only Christian Yelich had a higher OPS. Over a full season, that equates to 61 home runs, a number Yankees fans are very familiar with.
Bryce Harper was hitless in the Phillies’ 12-4 victory over the Braves and heard about it from Philadelphia fans.
Nationals fans said a few things of their own about Harper during their home opener.
The Rays game yesterday was listed as a sellout, but a large number of fans may have opted for a day at the beach instead.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Jacob deGrom – The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner picked up right where he left off last season, hurling his 25th consecutive quality start. The record is 26, held by Bob Gibson. The 30-year-old ace threw six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, leading the Mets to a 2-0 win over the Nationals. His three runs or fewer allowed in 30 straight starts (dating back to April 16, 2018) is the longest overall streak in major league history.
- The Dodgers Offense – Los Angeles hit eight home runs en route to a 12-5 victory over the Diamondbacks, including four against starter Zack Greinke. The homer frenzy had record-book implications. It tied the most by the Dodgers in a single game; set a new club record for most homers on Opening Day; and set a new MLB record for most players with a tater on Opening Day.
- Báez – The Cubs shortstop became the first Cubs player to have at least two homers on Opening Day since Corey Patterson in 2003.
This is not a good look. https://t.co/ynbOP1czFx
(H/t @BenBadler) pic.twitter.com/YrNxGTcHya
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) March 28, 2019
Speaking of Opening Day ghosts, did you know the Pfister Hotel here in Milwaukee is reportedly haunted and that the ghost of Charles Pfister is the scariest hotel haunting since Jack Nicholson in The Shining? Baseball held its GM Meetings at the 180-year old hotel in 2011. That’s the winter that the Marlins started down the path that has led to them becoming the low-payroll team they are today. That year also marked the beginning of the end of free agency as we used to know it. Talk about ghosts of baseball past.
Of note in the winter of 2011:
The Angels gave Albert Pujols $246 million to finish his career in Los Angeles. His best season since then has yet to top his worst season in St. Louis. He has been worth 13 WAR since signing.
The Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year contract. The oversized first baseman played in Detroit for two seasons before being traded to the Rangers. In fact, both teams would still be paying him today if he hadn’t negotiated a buyout. He earned two wins above replacement before a neck injury forced his retirement.
They Said It
- “Let Javy do Javy, and I think good things happen.” – Jon Lester
- “I feel more confident at the plate. I’m being smarter with a plan. About the lineup, you can really put me anywhere. We’ve got guys here that can hit leadoff, third, fourth, last. It doesn’t matter — as long as I’m in the lineup. I want to be out there and try to do my best.” – Javy Báez
- “Last year at this time, he was hitting really low in the batting order. There wasn’t that same kind of a vibe coming out of him like you’re seeing right now. He ascended to the middle of the batting order last year, and right now he cannot be more confident. It’s impossible.” – Joe Maddon
Friday Walk Up Song
Honky Tonk Heroes by Waylon Jennings. To the past, present, and future of baseball, Rob Manfred be damned.