Apr 2, 2021 5 min read

Opening Day winners and losers

Opening Day winners and losers

Good morning, frents!

So if Pat Foley is out there reading this morning, I would like him to know that we enjoyed Opening Day very much.

But we did not enjoy the outcomes.

One bit of good news: More than 400 days after starting this Chicago sports newsletter, I will be attending a Chicago sporting event tomorrow!

I'm honestly still not sure I believe it myself, but there's a full report on my glorious return to Wrigley coming Monday. (COVID tests permitting.)

Angels 4, Sox 3 / Pirates 5, Cubs 3

Do I know better than to overreact to the first game of 162?

Yes.

But I also know it will be awhile before we treat any of the remaining games with as much life-or-death importance as the losses by the Sox and Cubs on Thursday.

So let's hand out some soon-to-be-forgotten labels for Opening Day!

Winners

  • Lucas Giolito: The Sox ace struck out the side in the bottom of the first and two of the batters were, oh, only named Shohei Otani and Mike Trout. Gio looked dominant to start, but lost a bit of shape as the game went on. Still, he pitched well enough against one of the best lineups in the baseball to exit in position for a win. His final line: 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 2H, 2 BB and 8 Ks over 87 pitches thrown.
  • Adam Eaton: Take that, #SoxTwitter! The much-decried replacement for Nomar Mazara responded to the doubting by needing only one game to match Mazara's home run total over 42 games last season. Eaton's two-run shot to right off Dylan Bundy in the fifth gave the Sox a 3-1 lead. As noted on the broadcast, he was the first Sox to homer with Tony La Russa as manager since Ron Kittle in June of 1986.
  • Anthony Rizzo: It didn't take much to earn a gold star on Thursday. Rizzo was the only member of the starting lineup to notch a hit, doubling in the first. The Cubs wouldn't get another until Eric Sogard came off the bench to double leading off the eighth.
  • The fans: With a 25 percent capacity limit, the Cubs were able to announce a sellout of just 10,343 fans at Wrigley Field. And though the stands resembled an early- or late-season game in the pre-Sammy years, it still just felt right. To hear an actual roar on Rizzo and Sogard's double was awesome. Go ahead and put the canned crowd noise tapes in whatever bonfire we're burning other pandemic relics like jigsaw puzzles and the 12 buttons Zoom makes you find and push before anyone can see or hear you.
  • The broadcast teams: We already knew Boog and JD were going to work out just great, but it was confirmed on Marquee's tie-less Opening Day broadcast. (I need to hear more of Sciambi's Mets fan impersonation.) Spending the evening with Jason Benetti and Steve Stone was a reminder that our good friends on the South Side are back to guide us through the next six months. I didn't get to listen to either radio

Losers

  • Kyle Hendricks: The Professor just wasn't sharp. While his masterful Opening Day start last season made our list of 10 best Cubs opener moments, Hendricks only lasted three innings against a Triple A-level Pirates lineup, giving up three runs, four hits and three walks before handing the game over to seven relievers. Good thing today's an off day.
  • The Cubs lineup: Thirteen strikeouts overall, 11 of them to a Pirates bullpen that might oversee 95-100 losses this year. Just two stinkin' hits can be written off to just one game, though the Cubs' power outage the past few seasons reassures no one. David Brown wrote more on the Cubs' offensive debut here and thinks it will be OK. Probably.
  • Tony La Russa: He was previously up in the winners column by making the right call to pull Giolito before he went through Trout et al a third time. But then he didn't call for a challenge — something that didn't exist when he last managed — on Nick Madrigal being thrown out to end the seventh. Could it have changed the course of the game? Maybe. But La Russa said the challenge window closed too quick, which is really not an excuse you want to hear again this season.
  • The Sox defense in the eighth inning: David Fletcher led off with a single that deflected off Aaron Bummer, Madrigal followed with a throw to second that pulled Tim Anderson off the bag and Yasmani Grandal pitched in a passed ball that allowed the tying run to reach third. It all added up to a two-run eighth-inning that allowed the Angels to steal a win. The Sox defense should be a plus this season; just frustrating to see it cost them a win off the bat.
  • "RIP Eloy": It's nice to see that the Sox are such a tight group that they wanted to honor their teammate by toting his jersey and batting gloves around Angel Stadium. It was less nice (though also sort of hilarious) to see his presumed death trending on Twitter later.
  • The loud guy behind the plate in Anaheim who kept yelling that Chicago sucks: You know something buddy? You suck.

And that's it. The Sox get right back at it tonight while the Cubs get to sit on it for a day. What did the rest of you think?

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Trivia

Which teams have the Cubs and Sox played the most on Opening Day?

News and results

Adam Miller enters transfer portal:  One minute Illinois is a No. 1 seed with designs on a national title. The next it's not only losing two Wooden Award nominees (probably) but a freshman guard who started 31 games last season. The challenge for Brad Underwood to maintain this year's pre-Loyola momentum just got bigger.

Final: Hurricanes 4, Hawks 3

  • Grrrrr. The Hawks were 29 seconds away from taking at least three points from Carolina this week when Jesper Fast took advantage of a defensive breakdown and put the game-winner past Kevin Lankinen.
  • The Hawks dragged early again, falling into a 2-0 hole. But both Brandon Hagel and Dylan Strome tied the game earlier in the third. Yet both went for naught as the defense couldn't get it to OT.
  1. Scenes from Wrigleyville on Opening Day. Tribune
  2. Add Devin Booker to the list of NBA stars who are impressed with young Patrick Williams. Even after hanging 45 points on him. NBC Sports Chicago
  3. I never noticed the parallels between Tony La Russa and Gordon Bombay + the Mighty Ducks and the White Sox. Thank god Jim Margalus is here to point them out. Sox Machine
  4. The Bears have played in 33 baseball stadiums. How many can you name? Chicago Bears
  5. A history of pranks and the Chicago media. WBEZ

Trivia answer: The Cubs have played the Cardinals 33 times on Opening Day while the Sox have played the Tigers 23 times.

(Fun fact: No. 2 on the Sox list is still the St. Louis Browns with 23 dates.)

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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