News and notes from Cubs Opening Day
Opening Day 2021 didn’t go quite the way the Cubs dreamed it up in a 5-3 loss to the Pirates.
Ace Kyle Hendricks walked the first batter of the game and then gave up a 2-run homer on his 10th pitch. He settled in a bit from there but still needed 63 pitches to get through 3 innings and left after surrendering 3 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks.
It was the first time in 41 starts (dating back to April 1, 2019) that Hendricks walked more than 2 batters in an outing.
“There was a lot of non-competitive pitches, which is not like him,” David Ross said. “He’s a guy that barely walks guys and he walked the leadoff guy the first 2 innings. That’s just uncharacteristic of him.
“I didn’t feel like he had a good rhythm going out there. He was working extremely hard early on. I don’t want to push him when he’s not looking like himself out there on the mound. He’ll have better days.”
Hendricks felt his fastball command was “terrible” was not happy with the tone he set for the team.
“Just gotta reset,” he said. “We have 161 more. Gotta flip that around — can’t let that happen again.”
The Cubs bullpen combined to walk 8 batters as both teams fought through frigid conditions (temperatures sat in the mid-30s all game). It was the first time the Cubs doled out that many free passes in a game since they walked 12 March 30, 2019 against the Rangers.
Overall, the Cubs and Pirates combined to throw 365 pitches in the 4-hour affair.
Offensively, the Cubs displayed some situational hitting by plating all 3 runs on productive outs (sacrifice flies from Joc Pederson, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras).
The lineup finished the game with 2 hits and at one point, the Pirates pitchers set down 15 in a row before Eric Sogard’s leadoff double in the 8th inning.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in this one, but they count,” Ross said. “It counts now and you want to win them all. You try to move forward and hopefully we learned some lessons today and we’ll try to be better.”
Fans in the stands
Wrigley Field welcomed back fans for the first time since 2019. The official attendance was 10,343 — which was considered a sell-out under the circumstances.
“That was incredible,” Rizzo said. “I personally took an extra moment when I took the field to appreciate them being here and their cheers and being able to play in front of them. It was definitely something I’ll never forget, taking the field today.”
The fans got into the action, including a couple of “Javy! Javy!” chants and joining Ryne Sandberg to sign the 7th Inning Stretch from the bleachers:
Ross’ message for the 2021 season
As the Cubs went through a light workout at Wrigley Field Wednesday afternoon, Ross addressed the team and delivered his message for the season.
He didn’t want to share the entire meeting with the media, but the gist of it was that this team has a lot to prove in 2021.
“I just think everybody is on a different mission,” Ross said. “There’s guys in here that are young, trying to prove that they’re established big-leaguers. There’s guys that have played roles and are trying to establish that they’re everyday players. There are guys that have been labeled that they can’t do this or can’t do that and there’s guys that are on one-year deals and on the back end of contracts.
“I think everybody’s kinda on their own journey. It’s a powerful thing to be able to prove what you truly believe. I’ve heard the hearts and the words from each individual player in a lot of different fashions and I think a lot of them are on a mission to accomplish some special things. So when you hear it come out of their mouth and you see it in their work, I think it’s really powerful.
“That’s kinda how I addressed the group — respecting the journey that each individual guy is on and what they’re trying to accomplish.”
The players have bought into that concept.
“A lot of people have things to prove as individuals but that’s a fun thing when you talk about a group pulling together for us trying to win a championship,” Jason Heyward said. “So it’s very easy to root for your guys.”
Fun with numbers
One of the best parts of Opening Day is extrapolating the stats over the course of a full season.
On its own, one game does not tell the story of how the next 161 contests will go but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with pace:
—Pederson is on pace for 162 RBI in his debut season with the Cubs.
—Contreras is on pace for 162 stolen bases.
—The Cubs are on pace to score all their runs this season via sacrifice fly. (Side note: The last time the Cubs scored all 3 runs in a game on sacrifice flies was June 28, 1958 in Pittsburgh.)
Jake Arrieta takes the ball Saturday in his first appearance with the Cubs since October 2017.
First pitch is at 1:20 on Marquee Sports Network and Cubs Live! begins at Noon.