angels rally monkeyHow about it? The first series of the year is here, and it’s an atypical one for two reasons: (1) the Cubs are facing an AL team, and (2) it’s a two-game set.

It’s going to make the start of the season feel a little odd, but, so long as the Cubs don’t get swept, Wednesday’s off day should feel pretty tolerable, given how long we’ve waited for this.

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs finished the Spring at 11-19-2, one of the worst records in baseball. But Spring Training is just Spring Training.

The Angels, by contrast, finished up at 19-8-6, one of the best records in baseball. But, alas, Spring Training is still just Spring Training.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, April 4 at 9:05 CT on ABC-7, ESPN2.
  • Tuesday, April 5 at 9:05 CT on CSN+.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Jake Arrieta (1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP; 4.92 K/BB (2015)), Jon Lester (3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP; 4.40 K/BB (2015))

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Jason Heyward, RF
  3. Kris Bryant, 3B
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  6. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  7. Jorge Soler/Tommy La Stella, DH
  8. Miguel Montero, C
  9. Addison Russell, SS

Angels

Starters: Garrett Richards (3.65 ERA, 3.86 FIP; 2.32 K/BB (2015)), Andrew Heaney (3.49 ERA, 3.73 FIP; 2.79 K/BB (2015))

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Yunel Escobar, 3B
  2. Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry, LF
  3. Mike Trout, CF
  4. Albert Pujols, DH
  5. C.J. Cron, 1B
  6. Kole Calhoun, RF
  7. Andrelton Simmons, SS
  8. Carlos Perez/Geovany Soto, C
  9. Johnny Giovatella/Cliff Pennington, 2B

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

This space becomes a little more usable once we’re into the meat of the season, but I can say that I look forward to watching Cubs pitchers face Mike Trout. The guy is just about the best hitter out there (he or Bryce Harper or Miguel Cabrera, there’s probably your debate), and he doesn’t have too many weaknesses. Worse, when you pitch him down – which is where ever pitcher wants to pitch almost every hitter – he really crushes the ball. He’s improved against the stuff upstairs, too, so it’s not like you can just bust him with high fastballs and get him to pop up. Obviously I don’t want to see Trout beat the Cubs, and I hope the pitchers approach him accordingly, but it’ll be fun baseball to see them facing Trout.



Much less fun: facing Albert Pujols. He’s not the guy he once was, obviously, but I still clench up in fear at the prospect of him stepping into the box more than any hitter in baseball. Too many terrible memories. I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach it if he has a huge couple games.

From the Cubs’ side, I just hope we get flashes of how painful this lineup is going to be for opposing pitchers to get through time and time again. There is so much patience, so much power, and now, a whole lot more contact. On any given night, there’s a hitter 1 through 8 (or 9, in this series’ instance) that can punish you. I love that, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

But, you know, keep in mind: baseball is a season played over 162 games, which means there will be some clunkers, even for this offense. If it happens to come in this series, don’t lose your mind simply because they are the first games you’re seeing.



There were plenty of hiccups for the pitching in Spring Training (Arrieta’s blister-related struggles, Lester’s fielding woes, the bullpen’s periodic clubbings), so hopefully they’ll look different now that it’s the real thing.




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