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wrigley field from right bleachersThe Cubs will need Carlos Villanueva to do a little better in the rotation than he did last week out of the bullpen, but, more importantly, the Cubs’ bats will need to finally do some damage against an opposing pitcher. In this case, it’s A.J. Burnett, who was quietly all kinds of fantastic for the Pirates the last two years. He was solid, if unspectacular in his first time out this year, after a rough Spring Training.

Flame away, but I love today’s lineup. A.J. Burnett does not have a strong career split, but last year, lefties posted an OPS nearly 200(!) points higher on him than righties. He had a pretty healthy split in 2012, too, so I’m wondering if we’re seeing it become more prominent as he ages (he’s 37 now).

Today, he’ll start the game with five consecutive lefties. I dig it, and I also dig putting Starlin Castro lower in the lineup against a tough righty. Castro broke out a bit yesterday, but this is still very much his Spring Training (and, frankly, I’m not convinced that, long term, the 6/7 range in the lineup isn’t the best spot for him). Sliding him down in favor of the lefties is totally fine with me.

I’ll have more thoughts on the platoon situation tomorrow, and although I’m obviously very pro giving Mike Olt and Junior Lake consistent looks this year, I’m also understanding of Olt’s shoulder situation, Luis Valbuena’s flipability, and Ryan Kalish’s upside.

As I said, flame away. When the Cubs fail to score again today, you can blast me. (And I’ll just say something about bad luck and sample sizes, and then we can be friends again.)

Game Info

Philadelphia Phillies (3-2) at Chicago Cubs (1-4), 1:20 CT on WGN.

Game Thread and Series Preview

The Game Thread lives here. 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

A.J. Burnett (1.50 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 5.16 xFIP; 1.50 K/BB)

versus

Carlos Villanueva (13.50 ERA, 11.43 FIP, 3.58 xFIP; 1.00 K/BB)

Philadelpia Phillies Lineup

1. Ben Revere, CF

2. Jimmy Rollins, SS

3. Chase Utley, 2B

4. Ryan Howard, 1B

5. Marlon Byrd, RF

6. Domonic Brown, LF

7. Carlos Ruiz, C

8. Cody Asche, 3B

9. A.J. Burnett, P

Chicago Cubs Lineup

1. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B

2. Ryan Kalish, LF

3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B

4. Nate Schierholtz, RF

5. Luis Valbuena, 3B

6. Starlin Castro, SS

7. Ryan Sweeney, CF

8. John Baker, C

9. Carlos Villanueva, P

  • lnfihDeL

    Castro has my problem.

    Thinks too damn much.

    Just play.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I was checking on the Iowa cubs and Valaika is starting at short today. Baez is sitting. Tough start for him so far, but better he struggles there than at Wrigley.

  • Medicos

    If the game gets closer in the late innings I wonder if RR has guts to replace Castro with Barney for defensive purposes????

    • ssckelley

      No way!

  • mjhurdle

    Not a lot of solid contact against Villinueva so far.
    I hope he can get through at least 5 and be in line for the win. He deserves it after this first week.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Baker has no arm at all.

  • roz

    https://twitter.com/TommyBirch/status/452896508543643648

    “Javier Baez has his first AAA hit. Connects on a solo home run in the 7th inning to tie the game 2-2. #Cubs #PCL #MiLB”

    • Chet Masterson

      I just watched it on milb.tv. 3-2 pitch. He took whiffed at 2 mighty hacks earlier in the count. Took low and away until the count was full and flicked one off the end of his bat into the skybox seats in LF.

      On contact the play by play guy actually said “off the end of his bat”.

      It was a really an impressive display of power.

      • Lou Brown

        Nice to hear that he took low and away. Then when he got one, he took it out. Maybe it is starting to click.

        • ssckelley

          Good hitters adjust and he will.

    • NorthSideIrish

      Here’s video of the Baez homer, if you’re into that kind of thing…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGXB04C6Rqo&feature=youtu.be

  • willis

    I hate to say it, but he was safe there, and it’s about time to go get Villanueva. Hopefully it doesn’t get reversed but I think, regardless, may be time to make the switch.

    • Medicos

      He’s out Willis

    • mjhurdle

      it is really really close, but he looks out by a split second to me.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Baez homers in Iowa.

  • mjhurdle

    great defensive positioning there

  • ssckelley

    Another walk by Kalish, showing his obp skills.

  • mjhurdle

    so close

  • bbmoney

    Go Cubs. But what was Rollins doing there? 2b is about two feet away when he fielded that.

  • ssckelley

    I hope RR keeps playing Kalish.

    • ssckelley

      Leads the team in RBIs!

      :D

  • roz

    The difference a day makes, both in the majors and the minors.

  • Darth Ivy

    Loving the at bats today. The top 5 batters got 6 walks. Only 3 Ks. 6 hits, 8 runs.

    Villanueva giving up no walks, only 1 run.

    Good day.

  • Darth Ivy

    And wow, what a difference between George Will and Jeff Garlin

  • spelledbackwards

    The bad thing about doing this daily line up shuffle and playing matchups all the time is players may not ever get into a rhythm offensively. I would love to see Kalish and Olt stay in there for more than a game here and there. Valbuena should be starting 2nd baseman everyday and Barney come in for defense in late innings and then Luis can move to 3rd. Constantly switching guys every game does not seem like a recipe for success. Has any team ever made the playoffs or even had a winning record playing matchups everyday?

    • Medicos

      Earl weaver with Baltimore O’s used the platoon system with his outfielders for years and was extremely successful.

    • Darth Ivy

      I hope Olt gets 500+ ABs this year. They really need to see what kind of player he is especially with depth coming up behind him

  • Picklenose

    I am watching the Phillies feed of this game. The announcers are talking about the Phillies struggles batting with runners in scoring position today. Hard not to laugh.

    • DarthHater

      Obviously, they are not a well-prepared team and lack mental toughness. :-P

    • ssckelley

      Yep, the Phillies had plenty of chances.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Veres is a bum. Thank God we have a 7 run lead.

  • Medicos

    If Veras con’t get his curveball over the plate, he ain’t last as the closer very long. His fastball isn’t too good!!!

  • Picklenose

    How did Marmol manage to get back on the team?

  • willis

    Good Lord. Veras. You’re up 7, have confidence in your pitches. Throw strikes man.

  • Funn Dave

    Oh my fuck….

    • Funn Dave

      Finally. GG, despite Marmol making another appearance.

  • willis

    Weird, you throw strikes and you get outs.

    Good win. Timely hitting today and a good start from Villanueva. Hooray.

  • SKHERK

    Wowza! Veras looks horrible! I generally try to keep it positive, but his 2 outings have just been ugly

  • Jason P

    We have an early candidate for who gets kicked out of the bullpen when Fujikawa comes back.

    Good win, though. I was hoping for 1 more run and a scoreless 9th so we could all swoon about our even run differential.

  • Picklenose

    Wrong manager, but same point about Veras
    http://i.imgur.com/n46oFZY.jpg?1

    • drew

      Be afraid
      [img]https://imgflip.com/i/7z9xp[/img]

      • drew

        [img]http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/i153/andrew_g_pearson/7z9xf_zps07913ef7.jpg[/img]
        we’ll try that again

  • Darth Ivy

    Veras is better than what he showed today. But he didn’t seem to have a closer’s mentality, if there is such a thing. After he gave up his first walk, you could see him shaking his head and getting down on himself which continued throughout his entire outing. IF there’s such a thing as a closer’s mentality, that’s not it.

    • DarthHater

      Where’s Al Hrabosky when you need him?

      • baldtaxguy

        Ahh…the Mad Hungarian…great player

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