Talkin’ Cubs Live – Cubs vs. Pirates – 04/01/13

Opening Day – Game One: Cubs (0-0) vs. Pirates (0-0)

  • Game Time – 12:35pm CDT
  • Coverage – TV: WGN TV – Radio: 720 WGN, XM Radio Channels 185/844
  • Location – PNC Park, Pittsburgh

Jeff Samardzija (0-0, -.–/-.–) vs. A.J. Burnett (0-0, -.–/-.–)

Chicago Cubs Baseball is on the Air! Spring Training is over … It’s Opening Day!

Weather permitting … The Cubs and Pirates kickoff their 2013 campaign this afternoon. Even if the rain holds off (30 percent chance) highs are expected to be only in the low 40s.

For the first time since 2010, the Cubs will have the same manager in the dugout on back-to-back Opening Days. Dale Sveum and his coaching staff received mixed reviews in their first season, and Sveum made changes in the off-season to his staff with the additions David Bell (third base coach) and Rob Deer (assistant hitting coach) and the Cubs removed the interim title from hitting coach James Rowson. The message and teaching will be the same for the team this season, which can only be seen as a plus.

The team itself is much different from a year ago when the Cubs hosted the Nationals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs will hand the ball to Jeff Samardzija this afternoon and Anthony Rizzo will man first base. The bench and the pitching staff as a whole is an improvement on paper from last season, now the trick is to translate the on-paper improvements to the field.

With Darwin Barney unavailable for today’s game with a trip to the DL very likely in his near future, Dale Sveum is expected to run out the following lineup:

  • David DeJesus – CF
  • Starlin Castro – SS
  • Anthony Rizzo – 1B
  • Alfonso Soriano – LF
  • Nate Schierholtz – RF
  • Welington Castillo – C
  • Luis Valbuena – 3B
  • Brent Lillibridge – 2B
  • Jeff Samardzija – P

Several Cubs are on an Opening Day roster for the first time. This will be an unforgettable day for Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, Hector Rondon, and Dave Sappelt.

The Cubs have struggled with the Pirates in recent years but managed to split their 16 games (8-8) with the Battlin’ Bucs last season … and something could likely give this afternoon because the Pirates have never beaten Jeff Samardzija while A.J. Burnett has dominated various Cubs teams over his career and owns a 6-1 mark in eight starts against the Chicago Cubs.

Thanks to the schedule makers and the Cubs shutting him down in September last year, Jeff Samardzija will make his first start of the year on the same mound in which he ended his 2012 campaign. Samardzija is coming off a breakout season, and he is looking to prove that last year was not a fluke.

Samardzija posted a 9-13 record in 28 starts with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. Samardzija was inconsistent at best during the first half and seemed to figure things out after the break. Samardzija was just 6-8 in his first 17 starts with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP (100 strikeouts, 37 walks and 101 hits allowed in 101 1/3 innings). After the break, not only did teams hit more than 50 points lower against Samardzija (.261/.210), but he dominated lineups to the tune of a 3-5 record with a 2.58 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (80 strikeouts, 19 walks and 56 hits allowed in 73 1/3 innings).

For as good as Samardzija was a year ago, he struggled on the road (5-9 in 16 starts with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP) and that is one area he must improve on in order to take the next step in his career.

Jeff Samardzija makes his third career start this afternoon against the Battlin’ Bucs. Samardzija is 3-0 in 13 games, two starts, with a 1.16 WHIP and a 0.77 WHIP … at PNC Park, 2-0 in two starts with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.41 WHIP. Both of Samardzija’s starts against the Pirates were at PNC Park last season.

Pirates Career Numbers against Jeff Samardzija

  • Pedro Alvarez – 2-for-7 with a double
  • Clint Barmes – 0-for-7
  • Josh Harrison – 0-for-1
  • Garrett Jones – 1-for-8 with a double and a walk
  • Starling Marte – 0-for-3
  • Russell Martin – 1-for-1
  • Andrew McCutchen – 3-for-10 with two walks
  • Michael McKenry – 0-for-3
  • Gaby Sanchez – 1-for-7
  • Jose Tabata – 1-for-2
  • Neil Walker – 1-for-7 with a home run and two walks

A.J. Burnett is coming off an excellent season with the Pirates after being dealt from the Bronx to Pittsburgh. Burnett is clearly the best starter, for now, on the Pirates roster and recently said he might hang ‘em up after this year. Burnett posted a 16-11 record in 31 starts a year ago with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Burnett reached the 200-inning plateau for the first time since the 2009 season and only the second time since 2005. For as good as Burnett was, the veteran right-hander was even better at PNC Park. In 17 games, Burnett posted a 8-6 record with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.

Burnett has learned how to pitch. Burnett no longer tries to blow his fastball by hitters. Burnett has always had excellent breaking stuff, and that continued last year. Burnett struck out 180 batters in 202 1/3 innings.

A.J. Burnett has had his way with the Chicago Cubs over the years. Burnett  owns a 6-1 mark in eight starts with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP … last season, 2-1 in three starts with a 1.40 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP.

Cubs Career Numbers against A.J. Burnett

  • Darwin Barney – 2-for-7
  • Starlin Castro – 6-for-13
  • Steve Clevenger – 1-for-6
  • David DeJesus – 4-for-26 with a double and four walks
  • Scott Hairston – 2-for-3
  • Brent Lillibridge – 0-for-3
  • Dioner Navarro – 6-for-29 with a double
  • Anthony Rizzo – 1-for-6 with a walk
  • Nate Schierholtz – 2-for-4
  • Alfonso Soriano – 5-for-22
  • Luis Valbuena – 0-for-7 with a walk

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