The Cubs may have changed their threads for Monday’s opener, yet something looked very familiar and ugly.
While the Cubs unveiled some new alternate uniforms for Opening Day, they managed to look like the same sorry bunch trying to hit with men in scoring position.
Back to the uniforms later, let’s talk about the unsightliness at the plate. The Cubs managed to blow multiple scoring chances against Pirates starter Francisco Liriano. They let Liriano off the hook after putting the leadoff man on base five different times. They also stranded a man on second with no outs on three separate occasions.
The Cubs had Liriano in trouble at times, yet he managed to still punch out 10 Cubs, making cleanup hitter Anthony Rizzo look overmatched (0-for-4) in the process.
Rizzo had made some encouraging strides against southpaws this spring in Arizona. Today however, Rizzo came up empty with men in scoring position, picking up where he left off last season. Rizzo told Mark Gonzalez he will try and turn the page.
"I had three opportunities to drive in a run,'' Rizzo said after striking out twice and hitting a feeble pop to third with a runner at second. It's Game 1 of 162. You learn from it and move on."
Hitting with RISP is a department in which the Cubs have struggled mightily, both in recent years and what seems to be my entire Cubs viewing history.
I don’t care much for Rizzo in the cleanup spot (IMO ultimately more of 5-7), especially against a lefty, yet Renteria does not have many other options at this time. Mike Olt is but a rookie, yet he may be forced to hit there against tough lefties at least.
On a side note, I did hear Rizzo has been told by the club to concentrate more on driving in runners and less on hitting for power. That likely translates to bearing down in RISP situations, and taking the ball back up the middle or the other way if need be. You could say much like the Cardinals approach in those situations, or that Cardinals "magic", as my friend Sahadev would claim.
@sahadevsharma You mean "talent"?
— Ty Youngfelt (@TyYoungfelt) March 31, 2014
Meanhwile, Emilio Bonifacio got the somewhat surprise start as the Cubs leadoff man and centerfielder today. Somehow I think Rick Renteria may find a way to keep him atop the lineup if the super sub continues to set the table the way he did today. Bonifacio did not exactly tear the cover off the ball, yet all he did was go 4-for-5 with a double, along with a stolen base.
On the mound, everyone’s favorite temporary Cub, Jeff Samardzija, was uncharacteristically efficient. He threw only 89 pitches in seven shutout innings. If Samardzija wants to pitch this way for the rest of the year, the Cubs cannot lose, at least big picture-wise. At the plate, Samardzija failed miserably to help his cause by laying down an awful bunt which led to another rally-killing double play.
Otherwise, Starlin Castro looked quite sharp in the field, Wellington Castillo took one to the nuts, and Renteria bunted A LOT. Neil Walker (new age Cub-killer) hit a walk-off in the 10th to win the game.
What more can we say?
Oh, the uniforms, I will have more on that in a separate post. Meanwhile, I think this effectively sums up my thoughts.
— Desipio.com (@desipiodotcom) March 31, 2014
Not exactly a visually appealing day.
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