Chicago Cubs Opening Day – Battle of arms in Wrigley Field

Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

In the season opener, Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks will try and school the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff as these two NL juggernauts meet in Wrigley Field

There won’t be vendors on every corner and people shuffling in and out of Chicago Cubs merchandise stores around Wrigley Field. However, the excitement of the Opening Day is still here in Wrigley, and there is no mistaking that the fans on rooftops and lurking in socially-distanced corners around the field are looking for a win.

The Milwaukee Brewers have not been so accommodating to Cubs fans in the past like in 2019, where the Brewers won 10 and lost nine against the Cubs. The Cubs hope to capitalize on their home-field advantage like last season when they won six and lost only three games at the Friendly Confines.

Craig Counsell, the Brewers scarecrow looking manager, ranks about as high in popularity around Chicago fans as any nameable supervillain. Of course, Counsell is just doing his job, but his masterful pitching lineups have been the bane of Chicago fans the last few years.

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Counsell has some returning prize-horses on the field like right fielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Orlando Arcia but, as usual, will look to do most of his damage to the Cubs with some of the best arms in the game, including the starter today, Woodruff. Last season was Woodruff’s second season as a starter. Woodruff turned his venture into an All-Star performance going 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 143 strikeouts over 121 2/3 innings. If you still aren’t impressed with Woodruff’s numbers, realize that only nine other pitchers allowed fewer dingers than the ‘Red Baron’ of the Brewers.

New manager, David Ross, will send in his Professor of pitching, Kyle Hendricks, to do battle with the cheese-smelling heroes of Wisconsin. In high-pressure postseason starts in 2016, Hendricks brought wins for the Cubs in three out of five games he pitched. It doesn’t get any more intense then postseason baseball unless you are talking about Opening Day and so it makes for a worthy pressure situation in comparison.

In Monday’s loss to the Chicago White Sox (7-3), Hendricks gave a stunning performance as he served up four scoreless innings until the White Sox finally broke through in the fifth inning. Typical of Hendricks, Ross will just have to know when Hendrick’s time is up and get him out before any disasters befall the team.

Much trickier than you’d expect, Hendricks has been known to go on spurts of scoreless or near scoreless play for seven or more innings. It’ll be a meticulous Papa Ross that will have to look for the deep signs of decline when trying to figure out how long he can stretch Hendricks in the game.

Both the Cubs and the Brewers have been aching to let their bats out of quarantine. The Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was hitting a two-run homer on Wednesday in the team’s last exhibition game, and Yelich crushed an opposite-field home run in the Brewers exhibition win Wednesday against that other Chicago team (White Sox).

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That’s what should make this game such a great opener to watch. Two teams with powerful offensive bats facing two of the best pitchers at keeping things scoreless. Even without all the fans and “Go Cubs Go,” players should know that most of their national fans will be tuning in and muttering under their breaths, “Go Cubs!”

It’s only appropriate to kick-off this wild, weird and historic baseball season one way:

“Play new-normal ball!”