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‘Scrappy’ Cubs start 2022 season off on the right foot

2 years agoTony Andracki

“It’s a scrappy group.”

That’s how Jed Hoyer described his Cubs team about two-and-a-half hours before the first pitch of the 2022 season.

“Scrappy” is exactly how the Cubs looked Thursday in a 5-4 win against a team that won 95 games last season (Brewers) and the reigning National League Cy Young winner (Corbin Burnes) on the mound.

The external expectations surrounding the 2022 Cubs are low but David Ross doesn’t like using the “underdog” narrative as any sort of motivation.

All the Cubs care about are the internal expectations.

“My expectation is for us to win ballgames,” Ross said. “We’re gonna go out and compete really hard. It’s a fun group. It’s a group that gets along. A group that’s still growing together.

“The goal here is to win championships. I always say we’re gonna work towards that. We’re gonna be better at the end than we are right now, I’m sure of that. I think we got a lot of talent.”

Hoyer feels the exact same way.

“I think we’ll compete hard,” Hoyer said. “It’s a scrappy group. There’s a good vibe out of this team.”

The Cubs certainly competed hard Thursday.

Rookie Seiya Suzuki led off the bottom of the 5th inning with his first MLB hit off Burnes and motored around to third base on Jason Heyward’s hit. Patrick Wisdom knocked a sacrifice fly to erase a 1-0 Brewers lead and Nico Hoerner followed with a 2-run shot.

Just like that, the “scrappy” Cubs had a 3-1 lead and Wrigley Field was rocking.

For Hoerner, it was his first home run in 929 days dating back to Sept. 21, 2019.

“I think before we even scored, the first time through the lineup was a lot of consistent at-bats, hard contact, good takes,” Hoerner said. “Even though [Burnes] was scoreless through the first 3 or 4 or whatever it was, it didn’t feel like it was easy, you know?

“Obviously good to get a good result, but felt like from the start we were in there having good at-bats and that’s really all you can control.”

On the mound, Kyle Hendricks received his third straight Opening Day start and came into the season with a clear mission to set the tone for the pitching staff. He accomplished just that with 5.1 innings of 1-run ball, striking out 7 Brewers.

After Milwaukee mounted a comeback in the 7th, Ian Happ smacked a 2-run double in the home half of the frame to give the Cubs the lead for good.

“I’m really happy with what we did today,” Willson Contreras said of the offense. “Especially having a lot of young guys in the lineup. The approach was great. We didn’t fish out of the zone. We tried to keep it tight in the zone and we didn’t chase the edges. That was the biggest key.”

Of course, this is just one game and a win on April 7 is hardly a predictor of how the rest of the season will go.

But it was a decisive victory and a reminder to Hoyer’s front office that they might be on the right path as an organization.

“I love the progress we’ve made in terms of our plan,” Hoyer said Thursday morning. “Obviously we’ll find out how competitive we are. I can’t define that today as we sit here before playing a game.

“I feel really good about the health of the organization from a financial standpoint. I feel really good about it from a prospect and young player standpoint. Now we have to go out and play. The competitive part — that’s printed in the newspaper every day.”

Friday morning, the newspapers — and websites — will show the Cubs at 1-0 and tied for 1st place.

“It was fun,” Ross said. “Obviously you want to win ‘em all but Opening Day, this kind of crowd, against a division opponent, really good pitcher on the mound for them, just happy for our guys. They fought to the end. A lot of back-and-forth resiliency.

“Fun to see those characteristics come out really early and guys making big pitches in big moments. Really positive sign so far.”

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