The Cubs played the second of the four game set with the Brewers on Tuesday night. Paul Maholm got his Cubs debut in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field. After an opening series full of day games, the North Siders quickly find themselves with back to back night games, something that is becoming more and more common as the team works with the local neighborhood and the city to maximize those opportunities for future seasons.
What Went Wrong: That can be summarized with one word. Or to be exact, a last name. Maholm. It remains to be seen whether it was just first game jitters with his new team or a bad omen of things to come, but the lone lefty in the Cubs rotation struggled with his control. When he was not walking and hitting batters, he was mixing in a few fat pitches that the Brewers line up feasted on. By the end of the top of the first alone Maholm and the Cubs found themselves down five runs. That frame included two hit batsmen, two walks, and a home run allowed. To his credit he was able to settle down some and grind out four innings of work, but his box score line was not pretty to look at.
“It is still early” is a common phrase being thrown around so far this April despite the tempered expectations around Wrigley regarding the 2012 season, but it will be interesting to see how quickly Randy Wells is brought back from Iowa if Maholm’s struggles last the entire month of April.
What Went Right: Despite being put in a hole early, credit the Cubs offense for putting up a fight to get back in the game. After making a habit of scoring first in the opening series, so far against the Brewers the theme has been getting the team back into the game. The offense did just that in the bottom of the third to cut the visiting team’s six run lead in half with a three spot on the scoreboard. The highlight was a bases loaded single by Alfonso Soriano to drive in two.
David DeJesus picked up a pair of hits on the night, as he tries to wake up from a slow start that began in Spring Training. His corner outfield partner Soriano also tallied two knocks to bring his batting average to .353, leading the team regulars in that category.
What Was Interesting: Jeff Baker got another start at first base with the Brewers sending lefty Chris Narveson to the mound, but left handed sticks Ian Stewart and DeJesus kept their starting spots in the line up. This was a change from manager Dale Sveum’s approach against a lefty on Saturday, when he loaded the line up with right handed hitters only. The overload of right handed bats when facing a lefty has been common practice by the Cubs in recent years. There are arguments both for and against this strategy, with television commentator Bob Brenly mentioning a few times in the past that one negative of the approach is that the opposing lefty pitcher can easily get in a groove over the course of a game when just seeing the batter step into the right side of the plate all day long.
In years past, Cubs managers did it out of necessity, with the roster not really having any formidable left handed bats, like Prince Fielder for example, that you could plug into the line up for 162 games. When choosing from a list that included Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot, Tyler Colvin, and .225 hitting Carlos Pena, you can kind of understand why. It will be interesting to see what patterns Sveum will develop as the season goes along. The current roster as it stands does not offer the new manager much more upgrades from the names listed above. Stewart and Bryan LaHair will need to find a consistent power stroke for Sveum to consider keeping either or both of them in the line up regardless of match up, and lead off man by default DeJesus will have to prove to me more effective out of the top spot that Fukudome was as a part time player.
The Cubs have a quick turnaround Wednesday from the night game with the traditional 1:20 pm first pitch start time, as they look to position themselves for a series split.