Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Shōta Imanaga Continues Cubs Dominance in Home Openers

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Shōta Imanaga’s MLB debut could not have gotten much better as the lefty tossed six scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies, helping the Chicago Cubs win 5-0 and continued the team’s dominance in home opener’s at Wrigley Field in recent history.

The lefty was almost un-hittable against the Rockies, going 5.2 innings before Charlie Blackmon singled in the sixth inning to break up Imanaga’s no-hit bid. Brendan Rodgers followed up with a single of his own, but then Imanaga capped off his Cubs debut by recording his ninth strikeout of the afternoon, getting Nolan Jones to whiff on a fastball.

The conditions were perfect at Wrigley Field for Imanaga, who used his fastball up in the zone to induce fly balls from the Rockies that were knocked down by the wind that was blowing in. Imanaga also pounded the strike zone, consistently throwing first–pitch strikes, which put Colorado’s offense on its heels.

While Imanaga’s fastball was key in his big-league debut, it was his nasty splitter that completely fooled the Rockies. The lefty threw 15 splitters and got 12 whiffs. Overall, Imanaga recorded 20 whiffs out of the 92 pitches used to get through six innings.

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4 Shutouts in Last 6 Home Openers

After Shōta Imanaga pitched six scoreless innings, righty Yency Almonte tossed a scoreless seventh and veteran lefty Drew Smyly secured the win by pitching two perfect innings. The trio combined for the shutout, which is becoming a regular occurrence for the Cubs in their home openers since 2019.

Monday’s 5-0 win against the Rockies is now their 4th shutout win in the last 6 home openers.

The Cubs are 5-1 in their home openers during this current six-year stretch.

Morel’s Ups and Downs Continue

Christopher Morel’s defense at third base is under a microscope early on this season and so far it hasn’t been going great. Morel had a throwing error in Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers and also missed a few plays in Saturday’s game at Globe Life Field. Although Morel wasn’t charged with an error in Chicago’s 11-2 loss Saturday night, there’s no question that he should have made this catch on a line drive off the bat of Marcus Semien.

Well, it happened again on Monday in the second inning, when Kris Bryant hit a liner to Morel and the third baseman once again whiffed on the catch attempt.

This time, Morel was charged with an error.

Here’s the thing, the Cubs are going to keep sending Morel out to third for the majority of the time in April. Nick Madrigal is the other option, but other than selective starts against lefties or ground ball pitchers for the Cubs, he’s mainly going to be in the game as a defensive substitute. The hope is that Morel does improve enough to become at least average at third, but so far the results have been bad.

I don’t know what’s going on with these line drives, but Morel has to make those plays. Yes, they’re hard hit balls, but they’re right at him and he’s now whiffed on two. Get a machine out at home plate, dial it up 100mph and point it to Morel at third base every day to go along with whatever other drills he should be working on to get better.

Yet, as bad as he’s looked on the field Morel has been on fire at the plate. Morel recorded his third multi-hit game on Monday and is now 7-for-17, with only one strikeout through the first four games of the season. Morel’s second hit against the Rockies led to a pair of Nolan Jones errors that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead on Monday.

At least for now, Morel isn’t carrying his defensive woes to the plate. It sucks that he’s had a rough start on defense, but the Cubs are going to give him time to get better. Hopefully Morel takes advantage and if not the team will have to figure out third base, while Morel goes back to a DH role on a regular basis.

Until then, we just have to hope for gradual improvement from Morel at the hot corner.

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BearCub30
Apr 1, 2024 4:56 pm

When Steele comes back this is a very solid 1-2 punch. Interested to see how players adjust to him and how he works through that.

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