Key takeaways from the Cubs Opening Day win over Milwaukee
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs wasted no time in flying the W – taking down the Brewers on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. It was an exciting game from start to finish and gave us a glimpse at what this team could look like over the course of the next six months.
Here are three key takeaways from Thursday’s 5-4 victory.
Cubs: Kyle Hendricks dazzled in his third straight Opening Day nod
Prior to the game, I touched on what went wrong for Kyle Hendricks last season and how he needed to go about his business on Opening Day. In short, get ahead of hitters, keep the ball down and locate on the corners.
He checked all those boxes, striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The right-hander struck out seven or more hitters just three times in his 32 2021 starts, so it was promising to see him miss so many bats (he also notched 17 swing-and-misses on the afternoon).
His 20.5 percent swinging strike rate was, by leaps and bounds, higher than in any of his starts last year – in which he topped out on Aug. 23 against Colorado at 13.5 percent. He set the tone for the rotation and continued his recent Opening Day dominance against the Cubs’ NL Central rivals.
Cubs got patient, lengthy at-bats from new outfielder Seiya Suzuki
The box score might not look all that sexy, but Chicago outfielder Seiya Suzuki didn’t let the emotions that come with your first big league Opening Day overwhelm him, collecting his first base hit and drawing a pair of walks in four plate appearances.
He saw 19 pitches total – and also showcased some heads-up baserunning after notching a single to left, not to mention head-turning speed. In right field, he made a nice play ranging back toward the wall and narrowly avoided catastrophe with a near-miss on a collision in center with Jason Heyward.
As if all that weren’t exciting enough, my brother-in-law snagged a foul ball that sailed into the stands down the right field line, which was just the cherry on top of a very solid debut for Suzuki.
Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ power the Cubs offense with big performances
Looking to build off a hot finish to last season, Ian Happ led the charge offensively, collecting three hits on the afternoon – including a critical double in the seventh that proved to be the game-winner. After years of inconsistency that featured stretches of scorching hot play and ice-cold streaks alike, is this the year the outfielder puts it all together?
Speaking of former first-rounders, Nico Hoerner connected for his first home run since 2019, a two-run shot in the fifth off reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. With a chance to play a key role on this team, it was nice to see him make some noise in the opener.
Want your voice heard? Join the Cubbies Crib team!
Chicago and Milwaukee have three more at the Confines this weekend; starting with another 1:20p CT tilt on Friday afternoon, with left-hander Justin Steele taking the hill for the Cubs.