After a final exhibition on Sunday night, the Chicago Cubs entered Angel Stadium of Anaheim with a powerhouse lineup poised to begin what many believe, and even more hope, will be an epic run to the postseason. The advantage on the mound in game one leaned heavily toward the Cubs, who led off with 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, facing off against the Angels number one, Garrett Richards. Richards did not have stellar numbers in 2015, but it was his first season rebounding from knee surgery.
The two teams come from different leagues, and different parts of the country, so there was not a lot of history between batters and pitchers with which to make pre-game projections, but Angel Stadium has been ranked by the Bleacher Report as the 6th most pitcher-friendly park in baseball.
It was certainly friendly to Jake Arrieta last night. The right hander allowed two hits in 7 innings, no runs, 6 strikeouts (two handed out to Mike Trout) and only one walk. The second hit was very nearly an out as Dexter Fowler, sliding in from center, came within a hair’s breadth of catching it.
Things did not fare as well for Garrett Richards. His fastball was a flaming hot 97 mph, but it managed to hit too many bats. Fowler led off the game with a double, and he scored on an Anthony Rizzo ground out. In the fourth, Rizzo and Bryant both drew walks and ended up scoring when Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler smacked back-to-back singles. Both Fowler and Montero had exceptional days at the plate, Fowler going three for four with a walk and a strike out, and Montero two for five with a two run homer. Between the two, they scored 5 runs and Montero racked up three RBIs. Ben Zobrist also went two for five and scored, while putting on a quite a defensive show, including as lick double play with Rizzo. Bryant scored twice, and coming in for a single at bat, outfielder Matt Szczur hit a 3 RBI double in the ninth.
Considering that the power in the lineup was quiet – no long balls from Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, or Heyward, it was an impressive night at the plate for the Chicago Cubs.
Tonight the Cubs return to Angel Stadium where lefty Jon Lester will make his first 2016 start against Andrew Heaney, pitching for the Angels. Heaney, only 24, had a 3.49 ERA over eighteen starts last season. Lester, who was solid, appeared much more relaxed and at home this spring, even hitting his first home run since high school in spring training. It will be interesting to see how the rookie fares against the old veteran and the powerhouse Chicago Cubs lineup.
*Note – My dog and I commentate on most Chicago Cubs games on Facebook at Dave & Gizmo’s Chicago Cubs Page – and when the Cubbies win, we choose a winner of “Dave & Gizmo’s Player of the Game Award,” (the award no one knows about). 2016’s opening day winner was Miguel Montero, with his three run blast, and personally accounting for 5 of the 9 runs. Nice job Miggy! The Rally Dog approves.