The Chicago Cubs played their first divisional opponent on Monday night as the Milwaukee Brewers made their first visit to Wrigley Field in the 2012 season. The Cubs entered the game with a record of 1-2 after their season opening series against the Washington Nationals. Despite the Cubs record, I was impressed with how the team played over the weekend. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Jeff Samardzija all proved why they are the top three of starter’s in the Cubs’ rotation. The Cubs offense also had timely hits, and put the team in a position to win in all three games. The only issue came with the bullpen as Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood collectively blew the first two games of the season for the Cubs.
Nonetheless, the Cubs were ready to kick off their division play with the Brewers on Monday at Wrigley Field.
With this being the first trip to Wrigley Field for the Brewers during the 2012 season, it also meant that Aramis Ramirez made his first appearance at Wrigley since leaving the Cubs’ this winter and signing a three year, $36 million contract with the Brewers. Ramirez told reporters prior to the season that he wanted to return to the Cubs’ organization in 2012.
There is no question that Ramirez took issue with how the previous regime handled his contract negotiations. Ramirez has admitted throughout the off-season that the Jim Hendry controlled front office of the Cubs never approached the veteran third baseman about waiving his no trade rights, and that Hendry was reluctant to engage in serious discussions about a potential extension for Ramirez. The reason for Hendry’s reluctance to neither trade nor extend Ramirez was because the former Cubs’ general manager knew that he would not be heading the Cubs’ baseball department in the off-season. Thus, Hendry did not want to make any baseball decisions regarding the 25 man roster for fear of hindering the new general manager.
The bottom line is that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod took control of the Cubs’ front office in the 0ff-season and the trio decided against bringing Ramirez back in the 2012 season. Regardless of what has been said between then and now, it was interesting to see how the fans reacted when Ramirez took the plate for the first in Wrigley Field as a member of the Brewers’ organization. But before Ramirez’s fan reaction is addressed, lets take a look at the game highlights from the Cubs 7 to 5 loss to the Brewers.
What Went Right: The Chicago Cubs proved that they are going to be one of those pesky teams in 2012. Starting pitcher Chris Volstad had the first non-quality start of any starting pitcher for the Cubs’ this season. But that did not stop the Cubs putting together a strong effort against one of the favorites to win the National League Central division. The Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth trailing Brewers 7 to 3. The team then put together a semi-rally as the Cubs scored twice in the bottom ninth before Starlin Castro made the final out of the game leaving the game-tying run on second base, and the game-winning run on first base. Darwin Barney, and Bryan LaHair both homered with LaHair’s homer being an estimated 450 feet.
What Went Wrong: The Cubs streak of quality starts from their starting pitchers came to an end Monday as Volstad pitched five innings giving up 3 runs on 5 hits and two walks while striking out 6 Brewer batters. Reliever Shawn Camp was not much better has he followed Volstad and gave up 3 runs on 5 hits in two innings of work. Rule V draft pick Lendy Castillo made his season debut as the reliever went 2/3 of an inning giving up 1 run on 1 hit with a hit batter. Starlin Castro’s streak of reaching base safely in 43 straight games came to an end as the shortstop went o for 4 including striking out with the bases loaded to end the game.
What Was Interesting: Cubs’ fans had a mixed reaction for Aramis Ramirez during the game. Ramirez was greeted with both boos and cheers before his first plate appearance. On the night, Ramirez was 1 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Ryan Braun, who was 2 for 4 on the night, was booed heavily during the game and the left field bleacher bums had insightful visual aids for the Brewers’ left fielder. Braun is going to receive this treatment in every Major League Baseball park he travels to this season.
Castro’s o for 4 was also interesting, especially when the shortstop struck out looking at fastball that was clearly in the strike zone to end the game. Though, the Junior Lake fan club may not want to celebrate just yet. Castro is still going to have an impressive year for the Cubs this season and the shortstop likely will make his second all-star game appearance.
The Cubs will look to get back in the win column on Tuesday when Ryan Dempster takes the mound against Yovani Gallardo in game 2 of 4 against the Brewers.