Monday, April 11, 2016

Lester, Finnegan to start 101st Wrigley opener

Amid high expectations following their 97-win 2015 season and a postseason run that carried them to the National League Championship Series, Wrigley Field should be electric Monday when the Cubs return for their home opener vs. the Reds.
The game, the 101st home opener for Chicago at Wrigley Field, will feature a clash of left-handed starters -- Brandon Finnegan for the Reds against Jon Lester of the Cubs.
Home debuts have not been good to the Cubs in recent years -- they have lost their last five straight home openers.
"I know there's a lot to be said about their team and their projections for this year, I've always felt like the fans in Chicago brought energy," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They love their team. It doesn't matter if they're expected to win a World Series or expected to come in last place. ... I think whenever you go for Opening Day, there's going to be a certain amount of electricity, maybe a bit more because of the expectations and things of that nature. It's good for our club too."
Monday not only is the home opener, but the Cubs players' first peek at their new 30,000-square foot clubhouse, part of the Wrigley Field renovation plan.
"Everyone's excited -- I'm excited," said shortstop Addison Russell, who was more eager to see the weight room as well as the dedicated "party room."
Things to know about this game:
• Lester's reputation for not holding runners on first base well will be tested again should Billy Hamilton reach safely for Cincinnati. Hamilton stole 57 bases last season and is known for getting into the heads of pitchers and defenses.
• Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, who banged up his hip in the collision with left fielder Kyle Schwarber on Thursday in Arizona, could return to the lineup on Monday.
• Finnegan will be facing the Cubs for the first time in his brief career. On Wednesday vs. the Phillies in his first start of the season, he gave up two runs and three hits over six innings with nine strikeouts for a no-decision.
• All four of Lester's career starts vs. Cincinnati came last season, and he was 1-0 with a 3.67 ERA. He allowed six of his 11 runs vs. the Reds in his first outing and five earned runs over 21 innings in his other three starts.
• The Reds are participating in a Wrigley Field home opener for the first time since 1999. The Cubs won the 2015 season series, 13-6, to snap the Reds' five-season series winning streak.

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