It has been very well-documented that the 2013 Chicago Cubs had issues scoring runs. They finished with just 602 runs scored, the third lowest total in all of Major League Baseball. That total was better than just the Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox, however, hope (for some) that the Cubs will find way to score more often can be revived with the new season.
But, that slight hope was put on a hold right out of the gate with the 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon, thanks to the non-Emilio Bonfacio Cubs` hitters tallying just two hits. The Cubs had their fans gnawing at their fingernails and remembering the dreadful 2013 season in run-scoring situations as they blew chance after chance, leading to an extra inning affair and loss. Cubs fans have seen this story before, and I`m confident I’m speaking for all fans when I say this, it`s getting very old.
While of course, It was just one game and there are still 161 to go, It`s obviously been a common theme these past couple years. Anthony Rizzo had a disastrous game, but you have to look past it. Francisco Liriano was virtually unhittable to both sides of the plate, not to mention lefties. Liriano had an astonishing 2013 again left handed hitters, holding them to just a .130/.170/.145 line. The main point here, do not worry about Anthony Rizzo (or even the rest of the lineup) after one day against Liriano. The guy is filthy on the mound.
Of course the main theme from yesterday was the runners in scoring position. Yes, the Cubs were 0-11 in those opportunities, but for most of them the Cubs were facing the man i discussed above. Starlin Castro had a chance to get the go ahead run home in the eighth inning against the bullpen, and as we all know, blew it. The Cubs had Rizzo-Olt-Castillo each up with runners on first and second. Nothing came of it.
This is really starting to feel like the movie that never ends. While the Cardinals set records for their clutch hitting, and the rich get richer with Jhonny Peralta, the Cubs are left to leave 20 men on base in one game as they did yesterday. The meat of our lineup couldn`t scratch across a single run after multiple opportunities even after Liriano left the game. Rick Renteria better work his positive magic on these guys, as Rizzo and Castro already looked mentally fried after just one game.
Even with the continued storyline of 2013 in game one of the new season, there was in fact progress set in motion. Jeff Samardzija had a wonderful day once again at the beautiful PNC, and seemed to show a serious sign of maturity on the pitching mound with getting outs as he heads into his third year of starting pitching. Shark was in control for a lot of the game while gliding through with an efficient pitch count. Maybe this is a signal that Samardzija is ready to learn to get outs quicker with less worrying about racking up the punch outs, and more concerned about getting into that eight or ninth inning.
There is obviously no reason to panic, Cubs fans. Even with a rough day at the plate the Cubs had plenty of positives to look back on. Pedro Strop`s stuff look as nasty as Carlos Marmol in his wonder years, Justin Grimm displayed his potentially devastating pitch mix and the Cubs played very good defense the entire game. Junior Lake flashed his speed and athleticism in the outifeld, and Starlin Castro returned to the lineup with a healthy hamstring while making some solid plays at short. Pitching and fielding wins ballgames, and that`s exactly what impressed on opening day.