Before you say it, I will acknowledge, its only two games; but in-game one the Chicago Cubs’ 155 million dollar ace Jon Lester, couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning, the defense was extremely shaky and the offense much like the weather, has been cold in both games.
The Cubs’ hitters have been abysmal so far, as a team they’re batting .125, with a collective on-base percentage of .180, both good for last in National League. It took 16 innings before the Cubs offense finally scored their first runs of the young season in-game two.
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Aside from Jake Arrieta the two things that have stood out thus far have been the Cubs bullpen and the guy pulling the strings – Joe Maddon…surprise, surprise. Maddon is known around the majors as one of the best when it comes to putting his relievers in a position to succeed and though it’s still early he has already displayed that.
After laboring through much of the game one Lester was pulled after recording one out into the fifth inning, the Cubs skipper and bullpen had four and two-thirds left to fill and fill effectively.
Journeyman Phil Coke was the first reliever called upon Opening Night, signed this off-season as the Cubs lefty specialist he came in walked one and struck out two to complete the inning. Jason Motte pitched the sixth, Neil Ramirez pitched the seventh, Pedro Strop the eighth, and Hector Rondon finished off the ninth, and though the Cubs lost the bullpen kept the them in the game pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Arrieta and the bullpen were outstanding Wednesday, combining for a complete game shut out. Again Coke was first out of the pen in the eighth followed by Ramirez and Strop, with Rondon closing the door in the ninth to help the Chicago Cubs earn their first win of the year.
So much of the talk leading into the 2015 campaign has been about the Chicago Cubs’ farm system, the offense and the big off-season signings and acquisitions, leaving the bullpen somewhat overlooked but through two games they’ve been the story.
The season is fresh, but you’ve got to love what you see from relievers who have yet to allow a run, are striking out a batter per inning and have held hitters to a .087 batting average.
Of course the weather has not been conducive for offensive baseball, but if the bullpen can stay healthy, continue their pristine dominance, and help shorten the game, it would help meet the high expectations that have been placed on ball club, just ask the Kansas City Royals who reached the World Series last season due in large part to their bullpen.