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pnc parkAnd away we go!

The first game of the 2014 season, and the first game of the Ricky Renteria era as manager. How does that first lineup look against lefty Francisco Liriano? Pretty fair, though you’re likely to point out the inclusion of lefty Nate Schierholtz. I’m going to assume that’s because Justin Ruggiano’s ankle is still bothering him. It’s a bummer, since the Cubs start against a lefty, but he’ll presumably get today and tomorrow off before returning on Wednesday or Thursday (when the Cubs face another lefty in Wandy Rodriguez).

You’ll also notice that, with Emilio Bonifacio in the outfield (probably going to be a regular thing against lefties), he plays center field and Junior Lake slides to left. I guess, even as a utility guy, Bonifacio is better in center than Lake when the games really count. A mark against Lake, or a compliment to Bonifacio’s extreme defensive versatility?

There’s a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, and Starlin Castro ends up slotting in the three-hole, with Anthony Rizzo behind him. It’s not a bad group against Liriano, but it’s really not overstating it to say that Ruggiano may have been the biggest threat in the lineup against Liriano (career .256/.328/.506 against lefties). The good news is that, based on the way Ruggiano described his ankle issue, he could theoretically be available to pinch hit (I’m just guessing, mind you).

Oh, and a head’s up that you’ll notice in Pre-Gamin’ posts this year, as well as Series Previews: the W/L stat for pitchers no longer exists to me. It’s stupid, misleading, and a terrible reflection of performance and ability. I’ll breath no further life into it, thankyouverymuch.

Game Info

Chicago Cubs (0-0) at Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0), 12:05 CT on WGN and ESPN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. You should participate in the madness. And, of course, for those who aren’t into message board-style game threads, please feel free to use the comments on this post for your in-game commentary/outbursts.

The Series Preview lives here.

Starting Pitchers

Jeff Samardzija (4.34 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 3.45 xFIP in 2013, 2.74 K/BB)

versus

Francisco Liriano (3.02 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.12 xFIP in 2013, 2.59 K/BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

1. Starling Marte, LF

2. Travis Snider, RF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

5. Russell Martin, C

6. Neil Walker, 2B

7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B

8. Jordy Mercer, SS

9. Francisco Liriano, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF

2. Junior Lake, LF

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

5. Mike Olt, 3B

6. Welington Castillo, C

7. Nate Schierholtz, RF

8. Darwin Barney, 2B

9. Jeff Samardzija, P

  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

    Oh man…this is awesome strategy here!!! Ohhh…Samardzija hitting in this spot is just making me feel just soooooo awesome about baseball. So much better than having a guy who is even slightly competent at the plate.

    • https://twitter.com/dwoytek dw8

      DH now!

    • BlameHendry

      I think the NL should at least take a vote about the DH at this point…

  • BlameHendry

    1st and 2nd, no outs, pitcher up to bunt. No runs.

    How fitting.

    • Darth Ivy

      I can’t stand it when batters fail at bunting

  • Beast Mode

    Well, baseball is 0 for 1 on replays.

    • BlameHendry

      yup, that was bullshit.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Why is that?? That review was fast and they got the call right. Big thumbs up for replay on that one

  • Beast Mode

    Call was wrong at least a tie at first. IMO it was fast but still wrong.

    • Darth Ivy

      the guys in the TV control need to pause the video when the ball reaches the glove. That’s how the MLB officials in NY make the call.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Shark’s toes were in the air still when the ball hit the glove. Call was right, and even if it was a tie, that’s not enough evidence to overturn a call on the field

      • Beast Mode

        I will say it wasn’t the worst call I’ve ever seen.

  • Jon

    Looks like Happy is the baseball version of Lovie Smith when it comes to challenges

    • C. Steadman

      hahaha that’s so true, Lovie stunk at challenges

    • BT

      the evidence is overwhelming.

    • Blackhawks1963

      We all get it…you’re going to be a douche and call Ricky Renteria names in support of your growing campaign that he’s a bum.

      • Jon

        Says the guy that calls Castro “garbage”. oh the irony

        • Blackhawks1963

          Why don’t you get into specifics on why you hate Ricky Renteria. I mean other than he’s a half-full sort of guy who walks around with a smile on his face. Are there SPECIFICS on why you have already thrown him under the bus? Or is this just another chapter of your modus operandi for being a world class instigator on this blog?

          • Funn Dave

            Definitely the latter.

  • half_full_beer_mug

    I don’t see any true “bang-bang” plays being reversed at first base with out a perfect camera angle that shows the ball entering the mitt and the runners foot on the base in the same frame. Without sound that call is just too difficult to overturn.

    • Beast Mode

      Your probably right. I just think the runner should get the benefit on close plays. That’s why runners are supposed to be safe on ties.

      • Funn Dave

        Agreed. If it isn’t clear, it should go to the runner, IMO.

    • Darth Ivy

      it’s much easier for the officials in NY who can pause frame by frame. but for us, looking at in in continual motion, it’s really tough.

  • Beast Mode

    Come on Rizzo

  • mjhurdle

    well, i think it is safe to say that Liriano owns Rizzo.

  • johnnyfootball

    Rizzo looks much improved!

  • Beast Mode

    To 2-0 call on Olt

  • Beast Mode

    Tough call i mean on 0-2

  • Beast Mode

    Liriano has looked good hopefully they will pull him at 105 pitches.

  • Javier Bryant

    Another reason why Cardinal fans are the “Best in baseball” talking smack because Rizzo is 0-3 with 3 K’s vs a tough lefty. Gimme a break

    • lnfihDeL

      something something baseball something sample size small something.

  • lnfihDeL

    Brett any chance you can leave out RBI’s too?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I generally do already on that one.

      • lnfihDeL

        Whoops, new here!

        haha.

  • Beast Mode

    How bout that shift. Yes

  • KHRSS

    Two straight innings the cubs get the first two batter on base only to come away with 0 runs. That’s Cubs baseball right there!

    Nice shift and play by Castro there.

  • cubs2015

    Smooth play by Castro there. I’m still upset about that 2-1 ball call for Shark vs Mccutchen… Liriano has been getting that call all day.

    • Beast Mode

      Agreed I didn’t want to pile on the ump but Liriano. Has got the inside AND outside corners.

  • mjhurdle

    ha, anyone listening to the WGN TV broadcast when they just said “here is where the NL style of baseball comes into play” in reference to the DH, and then explain that it actually doesn’t come into play because no one got on in front of Shark?

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      ha…I loved that.

  • danimal8

    And can we take the word “Selfie” out of baseball now before it gets outta hand? Well, more outta hand.

  • Beast Mode

    Speedy outfield is nice

  • C. Steadman

    Shark for the most part has been effective, 77 pitches through 6IP. Helps that he’s had a couple double plays, but it’s a good start.

    • KHRSS

      97mph on that last pitch by Shark

    • another JP

      When Shark doesn’t just rely on the FB he’s tough. This is the kind of stuff that an ace type pitcher does… but let’s see how he handles the Reds or Cards before making that assessment.

  • cking6178

    Time to light up Melancon!

  • kridertr

    Ties do not go to the runner. That is the biggest baseball myth out there. It is the umpires discretion. But yet it is the most heard phrase that every little league parent yells it out at a game lol. Nowhere in the rule book does it say tie goes to the runner

    • Funn Dave

      But the rule book does say that the runner must beat the ball to first base, and so if he doesn’t beat the ball, then he is out.

      • Funn Dave

        Hm. Rereading that statement, I completely misread it. You’re right.

    • Beast Mode

      Rule 6.05 j.

      Paraphrased “a runner is out if the bag or he is tagged BEFORE he reaches first base.”

      The word before is a quote. That implies the runner wins a tie.

  • mjhurdle

    bonifacio having a great day.

  • Funn Dave

    Boni again! I’m a fan!

  • SenorGato

    Shark looks like a guy ready to have a big year. Throwing a ton of fastballs today it seems, and I am a fan of that. No need to walk into the season firing off a ton of breaking balls.

    I still am not much of a Welington Castillo fan at catcher, but maybe I underrate him in a Cubs uniform.

    Melancon’s cutter is easy, I like that pitch. I wonder how he throws it from the stretch since he’s going full windup. Should have stuck with it against Bonifacio IMO. Bonifacio seems useful, though I’m unimpressed with him as a CF.

  • http://bleachernation.com ramy16

    Wow…really impressed by Bonifacio..hes going to be a great pick up by the Cubs..I said it earlier and ill say it again..he has to set the tone when hes on

  • SenorGato

    BTW Pedro Alvarez seems to be in great shape? He’s been really active today defensively and everything’s going smooth. I enjoy the Pirates not sucking.

    Hoping Castro does something here, and Rizzo should also get a shot to give the Cubs a lead.

    • SenorGato

      Damn, he just missed that fastball.

  • KHRSS

    Castro has a good chance for an RBI there. Lets hope Rizzo can get a single.

    • KHRSS

      nope…

  • danimal8

    Great Boni base running. He made sure Castro was awake

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