Beyond the Box Score: Cubs at Pirates 3/31/2014


If you missed the season opener today due to work, school, or other responsibilities, you can catch the Cubbies Crib recap of the game here. While the result was disappointing, there were still some positives to take away from the game. Furthermore, there were some things of note that does not show up in the box score.

Mar 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of an opening day baseball game at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the third inning, the Cubs recorded their second of three double plays of the game. What makes this one notable was that on a shallow line drive to center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, Pirate Starling Marte was doubled off of first. The speedy base runner was on the move with the pitch and was not able to get back from second base to first ahead of Bonifacio’s throw to Anthony Rizzo. But what made the play was a bit of trickery by second baseman Darwin Barney, who had Marte thinking that the play was a straight steal. Marte ended up sliding into second instead of picking up the ball batted into play and thus made for the twin killing.

Speaking of Bonifacio, the spark plug deserves plenty of credit for being one of the bright spots on offense out of the lead off spot. The switch hitter went 4 for 5 to set the table for the middle of the Cubs order. However his adrenaline to impress further should have gotten him picked off first twice. The box score only shows the one that was confirmed after replay review, but Bonifacio should have been picked off earlier in the game as well had the Pirates first baseman not dropped the ball.

Just a glance at the box score may show an unexciting three strikeouts for Jeff Samardzija on the day, especially when opposed by the 10 tallied by Pirates ace Francisco Liriano. However The Shark showed excellent control and pitch efficiency, things he struggled with throughout the 2013 campaign. One game does not make a season, but it is encouraging to see that Samardzija realizes that he does not need to rack up flashy K totals. As a result the Cubs starter only threw 89 pitches and issued just two walks, one of which was basically working around defending NL MVP Andrew McCutchen.

None of this takes away from the disappointment from letting a winnable game get away in extra innings, but it is nice to always catch moments and nuggets that cannot be read from a box score if you missed watching the game.