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After early season feelings of doom, the Chicago Cubs managed to secure a winning road trip before heading home to Wrigley Field for Monday’s home opener.  Having already taken two of the first three (and potentially, they could have swept those if not for some stupidity), taking the finale was just what we needed.  I’m pretty sure the Cubs players were happy about their record too, if not so much some individual performances, but there’s time to get their heads on right.

Jose Quintana pitched six very efficient shutout innings and probably could have gone seven, but it’s still early in the season so I get why they would want to save some bullets before he gets really into his groove.  The rest of the bullpen did their job to preserve the shutout, with Brandon Morrow collecting his second consecutive save against the heart of the order.  In fact, the Cubs bullpen has been incredible, often bailing out a mostly lethargic offense:

On the offensive end, Ben Zobrist continued his mastery with the bat to start the season.  I can’t tell if this grazed the foul pole or not, but it went very far:

Albert Almora added a really nice opposite field double off a right-hander, and Tommy La Stella came in to scald a grounder that couldn’t be handled by Jesus Aguilar, leading to the third run of the day.  Willson Contreras had a strong game as well, including a triple that he really wanted to stretch into an inside-the-park homer.  Some fun happened with that play:

I suppose that Willson will get the last laugh, since his team won (not just the game, but the World Series, which people forget).

Anthony Rizzo has been sidelined with a back ailment for a few days now, and this early in the season, I suppose they need to be more careful so he doesn’t miss more time.  It is unseasonably cold even for Chicago, and back injuries are no laughing matter, but the Cubs have been trying to avoid the disabled list for now even though the home opener would be the fourth game he will miss if not put on the DL:

The Cubs haven’t exactly missed Rizzo too much, which is fortunate, and I think they just want to play it by ear to see if he can get better by Monday, or just give him the extra rest along with the Tuesday off day to get ready by Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The DL stint could be backdated if they ultimately choose to go that route.  But in the meantime, his replacement, Victor Caratini, has been pretty good:

For a guy who wasn’t guaranteed a ton of at-bats when he was chosen to back up Willson Contreras out of spring and who hasn’t played all that much first base, Caratini sure looks like a natural.  He has acquitted himself admirably, putting together excellent plate appearances even when the results haven’t always been there, whether because umpires hate him or just bad luck.  We do hope Rizzo can come back sooner rather than later, but at least Caratini can help hold down the fort until then.

The first home series figures to be an early swing in the standings, as the Cubs could potentially gain ground against the division leading Pirates (yeah, really) and even take the NL Central lead if they can sweep.  The Cubs are in second place all by themselves, just two games back of Pittsburgh, and being that there are 153 games left, there’s plenty of time to make their move and build a cushion like we all thought they would against rebuilding clubs to start the season.  But baseball is a strange animal, so we will just have to hope that the Cubs continue to remember that they are good at playing this game.  Lots of positives even with the struggles, and it should get better as guys hit their stride.

 

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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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