Chicago Cubs turn negatives into positives in 8-0 drubbing of Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- There's nothing like a 2-3 start to the season to bring out the hot takes, which have been selling like hot cakes lately when it comes to the Chicago Cubs.
Lose three of five in June and nobody bats an eye. But at the beginning of the season? Get ready to duck.
Or you beat your top division rival and those hot takes grow cold, at least until the next loss.
The Cubs put the brakes on the hot takes Thursday night with an 8-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows the up and down nature of perception goes with the territory.
"I knew one thing for certain," Maddon said. "At some point this year we were going to lose three out of five games. When it happens early like this, everything stands out. If a guy goes 1-for-10, it stands out even further. It's just what happens. There's nothing you can do to really combat it. I don't want to combat it.
"We just got to get out there on a regular basis and start our regular method of the game, meaning that the hitting is going to happen. We have really good offensive players. We just haven't hit to our capabilities. Even our defense hasn't been as sharp as I'd like to see it be. Starting pitching hasn't been as sharp. Nothing has been as sharp. But it will be."
One man who was sharp was Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester. After being off with his command during the opening-day start last Thursday in Miami, Lester came out firing strikes against the Brewers. He worked 6 innings, giving up 3 hits and throwing 89 pitches, 61 strikes.
"It was better," he said. "Rhythm was better. Just overall direction of me going toward home plate was better. I was able to execute all my pitches."
Lester even caught a runner trying to steal. In the bottom of the first, Ryan Braun walked with two outs and stole second base while Lester was looking down. Lester, who has well-documented problems throwing to the bases, got revenge when Braun tried to get cute and steal third. A bounce pass from Lester to Kris Bryant got Braun.
"I'm not worried about it," Lester said. "You can't control the other team's game plan. You've just got to try to execute your stuff, and we were able to get a free out there."
The Cubs jumped on Brewers lefty Brent Suter with 3 runs in the second, with Javier Baez playing aggressive ball in scoring from first base on a ball hit into short center field by Lester. Brewers second baseman Hernan Perez was charged with an error for misplaying the grounder, and when center fielder Lorenzo Cain bobbled the ball, Baez kept coming.
"He's got eyes in the back of his head," Maddon said. "He's going to make a great parent."
"Right before I stepped on third base, I turned, and he (Cain) bobbled the ball, so I kept going," Baez said. "They (the Cubs) let me run the bases how I want to.
"I obviously have fun out there. If you pay attention to where you need to be and wherever the sign is coming from, you really know everything. I was reacting to the play and hustling down the lines."
First blood in the series goes to the Cubs, but this should be a season-long matchup worth watching.
"I think that their fans are as excited as they've been in a long time, and they should be," said Cubs infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist. "They've got a good team over there. As a club, you can see that they're playing with a lot of confidence. It's our job to answer that call.
"Everybody's picking us to win the division. This is one of our primary competitions that we're going to have to battle to try to win."