MLB: Opening Day Sweep for Chicago

Chicago’s two MLB teams scored a combined 4 runs over 18 innings and have started the season undefeated at 2-0 and so another streak is underway.  They will have the day off to rest their bullpens and allow for the arrival of baseball weather, without which night games in Chicago seem intended for apres-ski fashionistas.

The Chicago Cubs got a fabulous performance from Jeff Samardzija against the division-rival Pirates.  On the offensive side of the ball, Anthony Rizzo drove his first pitch of the season deep into the right centerfield bleachers to give the Cubs a lead that they would never relinquish.

If the Cubs can continue to do what they did today – without the anxiety provided by Carlos Marmol who almost blew the game – they might compete for at least one of the wild card spots. For the North Siders and Theo Epstein this is a perfectly reasonable expectation.  The GM has a strong pipeline for future success with Chicago, so anything they do this year is a bonus.  I don’t expect to see the Cubs get 90 wins, but if they get to .500% in the highly competitive the NL there’s an outside chance of competing for the last spot. A lot of teams are going to cancel each other out. The iron of the NL is in the West and East, so the Central could see three teams back into the playoffs with the play-in game containing two NL Central teams. Anthony Rizzo can hit 30-35 HR’s in Wrigley and Theo knows this. The Cubs have the second overall pick in June and are going to pick a top-of-the-rotation starter without regard for cost, which is to say that it won’t be a Gerrit Cole situation. Look for Castro to keep improving. If one was so bold to project the Cubs as being in this thing at the All-Star Break, then Jorge Soler and the other studs will start to peak their heads later in the season, and that second pick could be getting starts come September 1st when rosters expand.  Looks good from this seat.

The White Sox hitched their win to Chris Sale, whose brilliant pitching performance in below average temperatures gave the South Siders the opportunity to simply grab a run and get the shutout.

White Sox fans have to be giddy over Sale’s performance against a team that’s supposed to make noise this year.  Sale beat the Royals’ top off-season acquisition in “Big Game” James Shields.  Going 7-2/3 with one walked and fanning seven is a chest-thumping opening statement to the division. The bullpen was equally impressive and Addison Reed looks ready to assume the roll of closer, and perhaps start to bring back that swagger in the pen that recalls when the Sox had Billy Koch or an effective Bobby Jenks. The offensive output is no indicator of how the season will unfold because the weather was f-f-f-frigid and so pitching held a distinct advantage.  Throw the ball inside on a cold day and hitters won’t be leaning over the plate any time soon. The Sox are aiming for a divisional title and an LCS berth. If Robin Ventura doesn’t get there he’s either not selling his team enough on their potential or he’s just having a bad season. The White Sox are a competitive team! The AL East is awful and the AL West doesn’t seem to have anything but star power. That hasn’t faired well under past inspection (read: Yankees).

Final synopsis: The NL is so much better than the AL that the AL might as well sit out the season. The NLCS is the World Series, as it has been for the last 5 years, which is too bad for the White Sox who stand to win their division.  The Cubs possess the basics to be competive in the superior NL, but all will rest on avoiding injuries.