Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cubs as advertised, cruise past Halos

Jon Lester took the baton from Jake Arrieta and ran with it on Tuesday night, dominating the Angels through seven innings and leading his Cubs to a 6-1 victory.
The Cubs -- a trendy pick to win the World Series -- won both of their games at Angel Stadium by a combined score of 15-1, out-hitting their opponents, 20-7. Dexter Fowlernotched nine total bases in the quick two-game set, the same amount the Angels amassed as a team.
One day after Arrieta, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, held the Angels to three baserunners through seven innings, Lester yielded just one run on four hits in seven masterful frames of his own, walking none and striking out four.
With that, Arrieta and Lester became the first pair of Cubs pitchers to toss at least seven innings in the team's first two games of a season since Jon Lieber and Kerry Wood in 2001.
"Last year was so different and there was a lot of hype involved around myself and a lot of expectations for myself," Lester said. "You try to go out there for the first start and live up to those expectations all at once as opposed to letting the season play out and go through your 32 starts and see where you're at at the end. Physically, mentally, I'm light years ahead of where I was last year at this point."
The Cubs did their damage off opposing starter Andrew Heaney in the third inning, getting a solo homer from Matt Szczur, an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward and a two-run homer byAnthony Rizzo, on a ball that traveled a projected distance of 422 feet to straightaway center field, according to Statcast™.
Chicago ballooned its lead in the seventh, when Fowler lifted a two-run homer to right field offMike Morin, who hadn't given up a run since the start of Spring Training.
Go Wildcats: Maddon said before the game that he started Szczur to take advantage of the good vibe from Villanova's win in the men's NCAA basketball championship. Szczur delivered, leading off the third inning with a home run. He totaled eight RBIs in 47 games last year with the Cubs, and has four already after hitting a three-run double Monday.
"That's what he has to do -- he's got to hit lefties," Maddon said.
Offense stalls: The Angels' offense clicked throughout Spring Training, which saw them post a collective .844 OPS. But the first two games have been reminiscent of a 2015 season in which they finished 20th in runs scored. The Angels managed seven hits and got four runners in scoring position. More >
"We just need to get it going as a team," Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "Obviously we're not off on the right foot, but there's a lot of baseball still to play. Once we start clicking as a team, putting some hits together, we'll be alright."
Left vs. right: Rizzo had a better batting average against left-handers last season, hitting .294 compared to .272 against right-handers. Six of his 31 total home runs came off lefties. On Tuesday, he connected on his first home run of the season and did so off Angels lefty Heaney.
We have a bleeder: Heaney's nose got a little bloody to start the second, so the young left-hander was allowed to briefly go to the dugout to have a gauze lodged into one of his nostrils. Heaney -- who walked none, struck out seven and looked sharp in five of his six innings -- said the gauze didn't bother him much, besides drying out his mouth. Like Garrett Richards on Monday, Heaney was done in by one bad inning.
"It's frustrating," Heaney said. "I think I just tried to nibble a little bit too much. I just kind of got myself in some bad counts, and whenever I was in good counts, I didn't put good pitches to put guys away. I tried to rectify the situation, but at that point it was a little bit too late; I had already given up four."
"The game plan they had on them was pretty good. They're two of the best hitters on the planet. It's fortunate for us. The next team they play will have to deal with the consequences. They're going to get hot sooner rather than later."
-- Rizzo, on Trout and Pujols going a combined 0-for-15 with five strikeouts in the two games
"If you look up the definition of a small sample in the dictionary, you're going to find that these two games are a small sample." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on his team getting off to a rough start
This is the first time the Cubs have opened the season 2-0 since 1995.
Cubs: After an off-day Wednesday, the Cubs return to Arizona for a four-game series against the D-backs. Right-hander John Lackey will make his Cubs debut, starting Thursday night. First pitch will be 8:40 p.m. CT.
Angels: The Angels are also off on Wednesday, then host a four-game series against the Rangers starting Thursday. Hector Santiago takes the ball in the opener, opposite fellow lefty Derek Holland, with game time set for 7:05 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1.

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