The Rundown: Williams Winning Over Fans, Contreras Goes Yard & Takes Shot to Head, Mercedes Rolling, Tatís Jr. Hurt, Castellanos Suspended
It was great to see the reception Cubs fans gave starter Trevor Williams when he exited last night’s game in the 7th inning. The right-hander appears to be the early frontrunner for most beloved new addition, which is surprising considering Jake Arrieta returned this year and Zach Davies could end up being the best of the three. Williams, who breezed through the first five innings before struggling his last two frames, left to a thundering ovation that made 10,343 sound almost like a full capacity Wrigley Field.
The former Pirate worked his curve and changeup to perfection all night, earning strikes on 13 of his first 14 breaking balls against Milwaukee batters.
Trevor Williams averaged 13 inches of horizontal break with his change up in 2020. Tonight, he’s averaging 16 inches and making Yelich look like this… pic.twitter.com/1yGZXWf9GY
— Brendan Miller (@CubsRelated) April 6, 2021
In fact, the starter was perfect through five with six strikeouts while allowing just two batted balls to leave the infield. Williams lost his rhythm after Brewers catcher Omar Narváez reached on an infield single to start the 6th. A botched tailor-made double-play ball in the 7th might have left Williams unscored upon, but a three-run jack by Narváez off of reliever Jason Adam charged two runs to the starter.
As good as Williams was, the star pitcher of the game may have been Andrew Chafin, who was absolutely electric. The husky lefty faced four Milwaukee batters and struck out each. Chafin was so good that Alec Mills, who closed it out, looked like he was mopping up rather than sealing a victory. Chafin threw 15-of-19 pitches for strikes and left Brewers hitters in a state of bewilderment. If David Ross can continue to get that kind of production from his bullpen on the days Craig Kimbrel is unavailable, the Cubs are going to win a lot of games.
The Brewers are struggling offensively right now and, though it’s early in the season, Chicago may be catching them at a perfect time. Last year’s 13-3 start went a long way toward securing the NL Central title and by opening this season with 12 games against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, the Cubs could find themselves in similar good fortune. With nine games against the Crew this month, the Cubs certainly have an opportunity to distance themselves from their neighbors to the North.
Chicago improved to 3-1 on the season with last night’s 5-3 win and Adbert Alzolay will take the bump tonight hoping to extend the team’s win streak to four games. Despite three home runs in yesterday’s game, the Cubs need to find a way to break out the sticks in a bigger way. They managed just five hits and eight total baserunners last night, so the offense needs to find ways to carry the team on days when the pitching isn’t as good.
Cubs News & Notes
- The new additions to the Cubs rotation have pitched better than expected to start the season.
- Last night’s win was a dream come true for Williams’ father Richard.
- Lost in the pageantry of last night’s performance in front of his family is that Jason Heyward was responsible for getting the starter’s father and brothers into the ballpark for last night’s game.
- The Cubs played their version of home run derby in the 4th inning thanks to a shot by Willson Contreras and back-to-back taters by Javier Báez and David Bote.
- Jake Marisnick stole second in the 7th inning to extend the Cubs’ streak to four games with a steal. This marks the first time since 2001 that the Cubs open the season with successful swipes through the first four contests.
- Contreras took a fastball to the head from Devin Williams last night and walked away seemingly unscathed. It was a scary moment and it wasn’t intentional, but the backstop shook it off like it was nothing.
- The Cubs and Padres exchanged relievers yesterday when Chicago acquired Dauris Valdez from the Padres in exchange for James Norwood. Valdez is 6-foot-8 and comes armed with a fastball that can reach triple digits.
Odds & Sods
Perhaps the best part of Chicago’s instant love affair with Williams is that his father is a lifelong diehard and is certainly doing his part to help endear his son to Cubs fans, particularly on social media.
So many memories of Opening Days at Wrigley. Today was really something special! Go Cubs!! pic.twitter.com/GVhq6gdSjn
— RICHARD WILLIAMS (@SDRICH7777) April 1, 2021
How About That!
Padres star Fernando Tatís Jr. left yesterday’s game with an apparent shoulder injury after crumpling to the ground during a 3rd inning at-bat. San Diego is calling it a “subluxation” for now, and the shortstop will be re-examined today.
After another three-hit game, White Sox outfielder Yermin Mercedes is the first player with three or more hits in a game three times in his first four career starts since Hall of Famer Roy Campanella in 1948.
The Astros continue to take unprecedented vitriol from hostile fans for being exposed as cheaters and expect their “Summer Heal” tour to continue unabated.
Reds slugger Nick Castellanos has been suspended for two games for making Rob Manfred and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina feel a little upset. The outfielder flexed after sliding safely into home last week, which is apparently justification for the suspension.
Giancarlo Stanton hit a long grand slam last night in New York’s 7-0 win over the Orioles but still endures a love-hate relationship with Yankees fans who expect him to produce every single at-bat.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Yermin Mercedes – The White Sox outfielder had another three hits last night in Chicago’s 6-0 win and is now hitting .667 (12-for-18) through five games.
- Nelson Cruz – The Twins DH is an annual regular in this section and earns his first top-three entry of 2021 with a 3-for-6 night that included two home runs, one a grand slam, and five RBI.
- Akil Baddoo – Who? Exactly! Detroit’s Rule 5 center fielder was 2-for-4 with a grand slam and a stolen base last night and invokes memories of the great Ron LeFlore.
The Pirates posthumously retired the number 21 jersey worn by Roberto Clemente on this day in 1973.
"I'm convinced that God wanted me to play baseball." ~ Pittsburgh #Pirates legend Roberto Clemente #MLB #Baseball #History #Inspiration pic.twitter.com/t2zXk02q1V
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) March 20, 2021
They Said It
- “Jason Heyward and his wife offered my family his tickets. I said, ‘I’m not getting you tickets, but the Heywards want to give you [their] tickets, is that OK?’ And he said, ‘Of course.’ The consistency that [my father] has shown showing up to games is something that I don’t take for granted, ever. I’m just really thankful that my brothers were able to come out as well and see this. Just knowing that I’ve always got a fan — at least one fan — in the stands when I’m pitching, is something I cherish.” – Trevor Williams
- “We’ve got a long season to go, but it’s nice and refreshing to watch the new guys perform and do all the things we expected them to be able to do.” – David Ross
- “You know your staff, and you know your pitchers, and if you know that the [Devin Williams] can’t throw fastballs in, I don’t get why you keep going [there] … I’m not blaming him, I’m not blaming anybody. But it’s just part of the game. That was not intentional.” – Willson Contreras
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith. I don’t know why, but the first home night game every season always leaves this song stuck in my head.