Two games down, two big wins. That’s how the Cubs have started against the division rival Brewers. Not only that, but for the second straight game, a Cy Young caliber Brewers starter struggled mightily with his command early on and the offense made him pay.
It was Corbin Burnes on Thursday, then Brandon Woodruff had problems finding the zone Saturday. The Cubs made him pay by scoring three in the 1st inning and another in the 3rd, then pushed him out of the game in the 4th inning with three more.
Things didn’t get any easier when Woodruff left for the Brewers because former Miami Marlins ace Jose Ureña came into the game and promptly walked both Frank Schwindel and then Seiya Suzuki to force in another run before throwing a wild pitch that allowed the Cubs to score their ninth and final run. Ureña then walked Jason Heyward just for good measure.
While Woodruff struggled, Justin Steele mostly cruised through his first start of the season, allowing just four hits and a walk in five innings while striking out five. There was only one inning where he really found himself in trouble as he gave up singles to Willy Adames and Christian Yelich to start the 4th but was then able to get a ground out to third by Hunter Renfroe before striking out Keston Hiura and Tyrone Taylor to end the threat.
Walks were certainly the name of the game on Saturday, but there were also some good pieces of hitting. Ian Happ got two more hits, two RBI, a walk, and was hit by a pitch. Happ was one of three Cubs to get hit by a pitch today, with Willson Contreras (for the second straight game) and Nick Madrigal also wearing one for the team.
After Happ’s HBP on the knee forced him to leave the game, the Cubs had clearly had enough. In the next half inning, Keegan Thompson plunked Andrew McCutcheon and the benches briefly cleared but no punches were thrown.
Why the Cubs Won
They took advantage of Woodruff’s inability to throw strikes by scoring three runs before they got their first base hit. A walk, Madrigal’s hit by pitch, and two more walks scored the game’s first run. Frank Schwindel hit into a fielder’s choice to make it 2-0 and Suzuki hit a sac fly to make it 3-0 and that was more than the Cubs needed.
Schwindel and Suzuki both had productive outs that put the Cubs on the scoreboard even if they couldn’t get a hit. That particular kind of production was noticeably absent for large swaths of the last couple of years.
Stats That Matter
- Woodruff finished with a line of 3.2 IP, 6H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 HBP and just 2 Ks. Those are all eye-popping on their own and then you realize that in 2021, he allowed just two earned runs and struck out 35% of Cubs batters faced in five starts.
- Schwindel went 2-for-4 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. After an O-fer on Opening Day, he bounced back strong.
- In four innings of shutout ball, the Cubs bullpen walked two but didn’t allow a hit and struck out five.
- Suzuki went 1-for-3 and got his first three major league RBI. He also had a walk and now has a .556 OBP to start the year.
Patience at the plate has been a massive part of why Chicago is 2-0. In two games, they’ve walked 14 times. Not every opposing pitcher is going to have the control problems the Brewers have, but the Cubs are displaying a different approach from we’ve seen and the results have been great.