It’s Cardinals week for the Cubs as the long-time rivals meet up for the first time this season. The Cubs got the best of the Cardinals last year but that was then. Joe Maddon’s team has to knock off the defending NL Central Champs to reach their first goal of the season. As Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer constantly remind the media, the Cubs are the defending third place team and have not won anything yet.
According to Paul Sullivan, an old rivalry gets a new twist as the Cubs and Cardinals meet in St. Louis. And two of the newest Cubs, John Lackey and Jason Heyward are sure to receive warm welcomes tonight from the self-proclaimed best fans in baseball.
The Cubs enter play today two games ahead of the Cardinals in the standings after 12 games. There is a long way to go before scoreboard watching will be part of the daily routine. But according to ESPN’s Mark Saxon, the Cardinals are ready for their first series with the first-place Cubs.
After an off-season of exchanging jabs in the media, the Cardinals focusing too much on the Maddon’s team and Mike Matheny referring to the Cubs as “that other team” in the spring, the gloves come off tonight for the first of three in St. Louis.
Pitching Matchups – Cubs-Cardinals Series
The Cubs and Cardinals confirmed the starting pitchers for the three-game series. The Cubs will not see either Adam Wainwright or Michael Wacha over the next three days.
John Lackey gets the ball in the opener Monday night against former Reds and Giants right-hander Mike Leake. Jason Hammel will oppose lefty Jaime Garcia on Tuesday night. Garcia is coming off the best start of his career. Garcia is healthy, for now, and will be a challenge for the Cubs.
The series wraps on Wednesday afternoon with Kyle Hendricks taking on Carlos Martinez.
Miguel Montero is expected to catch all three games, even Tuesday with Garcia on the hill.
On the one-year anniversary of his Major League debut, Kris Bryant received the Players Choice Award as the 2015 NL Outstanding Rookie. Jake Arrieta presented Bryant with the award before the game.
Kris Bryant earned the award after batting .275/.369/.488 with 31 doubles, five triples and 26 home runs for a .858 OPS, being named a National League All-Star and helping the Cubs advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time in 12 years.
The MLBPA donated $20,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project in Bryant’s name.
With Javier Baez getting starts at second base and shortstop on consecutive days, Joe Maddon addressed the Cubs plans for getting Baez regular playing time. Maddon said Saturday that Baez could start two to three games a week.
According to a report from Tony Andracki, Maddon could start Baez as much as once a week at shortstop and second base. Baez would benefit from the playing time and Maddon would be able to keep Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist fresh.
Maddon has been a huge supporter of Baez since last spring. Maddon wanted Baez on the Opening Day roster a year ago but could not convince Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer not to send him to Iowa. Maddon believes regular playing time will allow Baez to flourish without a set position and an actual starting job.
News and Notes
• Buster Olney’s weekly power rankings: Cubs, Royals, Nationals, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Cardinals
• Sunday was the 25th time in Jon Lester’s career the lefty struck out 10 batters. Counting the 2-0 loss to the Rockies, Jon Lester is 16-3 in those 25 games.
• Jon Lester was good Sunday, but not good enough in Cubs’ loss according to ESPN Chicago.
• Comcast SportsNet reported lack of offense overshadows another strong start from Lester in Cubs loss.
• According to Tony Andracki, Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo have an agreement on the throws he will make to first base. Lester is supposed to miss down, which gives Rizzo a chance to make a play instead of missing high and the ball sails on him.
• Manny Ramirez talked to ESPN Chicago about the Cubs’ offense. Ramirez’s presence had an impact on Jorge Soler and Manny thinks the Cubs will be “way better than last year.”
• According to Jordan Bernfield, the Cubs’ offense is built to wear down opponents.
• Jim Bowden handed out grades for position players. Bowden, like most in baseball, is high on the Cubs offense but has concerns about the team’s defense. Overall, the Cubs position players grade out as an A- according to Bowden because of the defense. And the Cubs fall in behind the Blue Jays, Royals and Tigers in Bowden’s ranking.
• The Tribune reported Eric Young a former Cub who’s now a thinking man’s baseball lifer.
And last, but not least, Peter Gammons pointed out before Sunday’s game that since the All-Star break last summer, Dexter Fowler was hitting .289/.410/.493/.904 in 78 games with 35 extra basehits.
This Day in Cubstory
2011 – Previous waiver selection of Brian Schlitter by the New York Yankees was voided and Schlitter was returned to the Cubs.
1984 – Marco Mateo, born
1983 – Alberto Gonzalez, born
1983 – Mike Parisi, born
1962 – Ernie Banks hit his 300th home run off Dick Farrell in the 1oth inning to beat the Astros 3-2. Dick Ellsworth picked up the win in the Cubs’ first victory of the season at Wrigley Field.
1959 – Rich Bordi, born
1945 – Mike Paul, born
1930 – Lon Warneke made his Cubs debut in the sixth inning. Warneke was charged with two hits, five walks and five runs in the Cubs 11-1 loss to the Cardinals. Wild Bill Hallahan allowed just two hits for St. Louis.
1905 – Mal Moss, born
1898 – The Chicago Orphans loaned George Decker to the St. Louis Browns
1873 – Danny Friend, born
1869 – George Borchers, born