Takeaways from the Cubs’ season-opening series against Brewers
What should we make of the Cubs’ opening series against the Brewers?
Milwaukee took the three-game set with a 9-5 win on Sunday, following a couple of closely contested games that two sides split Thursday and Saturday. For the Cubs, the weekend included a share of highs and lows.
“I think just pitching staff wise, when we’re in the strike zone, we’re gonna be pretty good,” starter Jameson Taillon said after Sunday’s 9-5 loss. “Got a lot of good arms, a lot of different looks that we can show.
“Dansby [Swanson] had a heck of a series. We’re gonna play defense, we’re gonna run the bases, we’re gonna grind out at bats. I liked what I saw. I mean, obviously, you wish you win the series and come out with two or three wins. But overall, I think there’s a lot of good things to take away from it.”
A few takeaways from the weekend:
For anyone worried about Dansby Swanson offensively after a quiet Spring Training, the Cubs’ top offseason acquisition eased concerns with a big first weekend.
Swanson went 7-for-12 with a double and 2 RBIs in 3 games, including a pair of 3-hit performances against Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and the Brewers bullpen. It’s the fifth-most hits by a player in the first 3 games of their Cubs tenure all-time.
"Dansby Swanson is as hot as a firecracker!" – Pat Hughes— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 2, 2023
We agree. pic.twitter.com/Xm8yKnBSb4
Beyond the bat, Swanson has been as advertised in the field, making a handful of highlight-reel plays vs. the Brewers.
Manager David Ross praised Swanson’s composure defensively pregame Sunday, and the 2022 Gold Glove Award winner went out and made another slick play.
“I think the calmness at which Dansby goes about playing is so relaxing to me,” Ross said. “I don’t have to hold my breath when the throw goes off, or he’s rushing, or the ball in the hole, or just the routine play that looks like it’s about to take a funny hop and you want to kind of make the ‘uhhh’ in your mind.
“I’m like, ‘All right, you’re out,’ you know? It feels that way. Sometimes you can see that in-between hop, or you see the rushed throw and the ball sails on a guy every once in a while. You’re kind of like, ‘OK, it makes sense,’ like, he had to rush because of this or that. You just don’t feel that with [Swanson].
“When and if he does make a mistake, that’ll be the actual shocking moment. Definitely an appreciation for how he’s gone about his business in Spring Training and leading up to the beginning of the season.”
It’s no secret pitching and defense are two hallmarks of the Cubs this season, and their rotation got off to a good start behind Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele.
Stroman and Steele each tossed 6 shutout innings vs. Milwaukee, and each allowed just 3 hits while striking out 8. Those performances put them in some exclusive company.
Taillon wasn’t as sharp on Sunday in his Cubs debut, allowing 3 runs and 7 hits in 4 innings.
“I wish the results would have been a little better,” Taillon said. “Command was a little shaky, kind of falling behind in counts and stuff, getting them in hitters counts. But overall, I felt fine. I don’t think I need to go change anything drastic, just have better command next start.”
On the one hand, the Cubs were snake bitten in the two losses by weak contact that found holes. But in both instances, the Brewers took advantage of free passes handed out by Cubs pitchers.
“Yeah, that’s one of my staples,” Ross said after Sunday’s loss. “If we’re gonna get beat, let’s get beat in the zone. Let’s not beat ourselves. I don’t think that’s gonna be our calling card.
“A lot of that is guys just touching the bump for the first time, I think. Some of that, maybe some of the adrenaline early on. The cold weather, some things like that. I don’t think that’s how we’re built but definitely we gotta stay away from free passes.”
The Cubs walked 15 batters in the 3-game set with 10 of those free passes coming from the bullpen.
Saturday, Javier Assad walked Milwaukee’s Garrett Mitchell — who was trying to lay down a bunt — in the 8th inning, putting the eventual go-ahead run on second base. The Brewers ended up plating 3 runs in the inning en route to a 3-1 victory.
In the 6th on Sunday, Julian Merryweather walked 2 batters that came around to score while also allowing 5 hits and 5 runs as the Brewers opened the game up.
“I think [it was the big difference in the game],” Ross said. “It didn’t feel like we were ahead very often with first-pitch strikes. I’d rather be on the attack and then when they did swing at ‘em, it felt like they found some grass.
“Julian especially, it felt like, some swinging bunts. The leadoff walks hurt us twice today. I think a lot of soft contact just out of the reach of some guys underneath. But that inning that got away from us, it was a lot of soft contact there at the end.”