When the Cubs took the field on Monday against the Reds it was the youngest Opening Day lineup the Cubs had put on the field since 1977 and for the 4th year in a row the Cubs won their Opening Day game….16-7 over the Cincinnati Reds. In those four games the Cubs have scored 54 runs and this is the first time the franchise has won 4 consecutive Opening Day games since 1950-1955. The Cubs tied their Opening Day record for runs scored, matching the total against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005. The Cubs have played the Reds more on Opening Day than anyone else, their Opening Day record is 17-15 against the Reds having won 9 of their last 12.
The Reds made a little history on Monday as well. This was the first time since 1877 the Reds had given up 16 runs on Opening Day as well as 5 runs in the first inning of an Opening Day game. Both happened when the Reds lost to Louisville, 24-6, in 1877.
But does a rout on Opening Day mean anything for the Cubs? While I was talking to some of the Cubs Faithful on Monday night, this was the topic on their minds….so I thought I would explore it a little. I went back and looked at last year’s box score against the Diamondbacks and searched the memory bank as well. And while there were some similarities, I think the team that played on Monday did a better job with the fundamentals of baseball.
Obviously last year’s Opening Day was Corey Patterson’s best game of the entire season, but Juan Pierre did a better job on Monday. Pierre never swung for the fence and played a solid centerfield. Pierre did not have a strike out on Monday. Todd Walker’s line was similar as well, 3-4 with 2 runs scored. But last year Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez had HUGE games and on Monday neither were a big factor in the win, don’t get me wrong they helped going a combined 2 for 6 with 5 walks. But the supporting cast was the difference and for the Cubs to be successful in 2006 that will have to be a reoccurring theme.
Last year the Cubs scored 16 on 23 hits and left 8 on base; on Monday they scored 16 on 18 hits and left 9 on base. Last year Lee and Ramirez both hit home runs and on Monday it was just Matt Murton.
Carlos Zambrano was ejected in the 5th inning last year and gave up 3 runs on 5 hits. The bullpen last year (Rusch, Todd Wellemeyer and Cliff Bartosh) allowed 3 more runs on 5 hits. While Z’s line was basically the same, the bullpen held a much better offense to 2 runs on 4 hits.
The key now for the Cubs is to build on Monday and not drop the next 3 in a row like they did in 2005. The team fundamentals looked a lot better and the team only committed one error….this team is younger and a lot faster than 2005, there has been a change on the Northside of Chicago and hopefully that change will mean more wins throughout the season.
A report from the Chicago Sun-Times interviewing Todd Walker on this year’s squad
Quote from President Bush from FoxSports.com
Before the game, Bush visited the Reds’ clubhouse and shook hands with each player in front of his locker. He received a black bat from Ken Griffey Jr., who patted the president on the back of his right shoulder. Then, he was off to visit the Cubs in another quick go-around. As he entered the clubhouse of a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908, Bush said, “So, this is the year, right?”