Friday, April 1, 2011

Game Preview: Opening Day 2011

Today another season of Chicago Cubs baseball gets underway as the Cubs battle the Pirates at Wrigley Field! The Cubs will do battle with fellow NL Central bottom dwellers from 2010, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates finished 2010 in last place with a record of 57-105. The fifth place Cubs weren't much better at 75-87. Both clubs are under new manager this season. Mike Quade takes over the full time gig after serving as the interim skipper for the final two months of 2010.

Clint Hurdle, a former Rockies manager, was named the Pittsburgh skipper this winter. Neither club has high expectations for the year, but the Pirates have a chance to finally end their streak of last place finishes. They have a chance to finish ahead of the Houston Astros for fifth place.

The Cubs are predicted to finish fourth in the division, also a notch up from their finish a year ago. However, the division is very winnable. The Cubs could surprise some people by making some noise this season. Their strong finish under Mike Quade provides some hope for a surprising playoff run.

Ryan Dempster will make his first Opening Day start as a Cub. For more on the Cubs right hander, check out my post from earlier in the week.

RHP Kevin Coreia was suprisingly named Clint Hurdle's starter for the season's first game. He will make his Pittsburgh debut today after going 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA for the Padres last season.

One key to 2011 for the Cubs will be beating the Astros and Pirates. A year ago, they went just 5-10 against the lowly Bucs.

Here is the starting nine that will take the field at Wrigley today:
1. Kosuke, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, RF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Geovany Soto, C
7. Alfonso Soriano, LF
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
9. Ryan Dempster, P

Ron Santo will be in the thoughts of all Cubs fans today. It is going to be strange to start the first regular season without Ronnie up in the broadcast booth. Ron Santo Jr. will sing the 7th Inning Stretch.

The game will be on WGN-TV and WGN Radio at 1:20. TV coverage begins with "Next Year is Here", hosted by Dan Roan, at 12:30. Judd Sirott's pregame show starts at
12:45 on 720 AM.

The Cubs will be in for a bit of a shock when they take the field in the cold after spending the spring training in sunny Arizona. The high is 46 degrees and there is an 80% chance of rain in Chicago. The Cubs will do everything they can to try to get this one in.

As Ron Santo would say, "This is the year!"

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