Cubs flex bats, gloves in early challenge vs. Dodgers (2024)

April 5th, 2024

Cubs flex bats, gloves in early challenge vs. Dodgers (1)

Tim Stebbins


CHICAGO -- When the Cubs gathered for a mound visit in the ninth inning Friday as the Dodgers threatened to tie the game, second baseman Nico ho*rner had a message for first baseman Michael Busch.

“Nico was telling me we were just trying to keep everything from getting to the outfield,” Busch said. “So if we had to dive, we were going to dive, and two pitches later I had to dive.”

The Dodgers had runners on second and third with two outs when Busch dove to his right to snag a James Outman line drive, preserving the Cubs’ 9-7 series-opening win at Wrigley Field.

The first week of April is too early to call one game or series the biggest of the season for any team, considering all the implications that are inherent in such a label.

But the Cubs are embracing the early opportunity to see how they stack up with a star-studded Dodgers team many expect to make a deep run this October.

Cubs flex bats, gloves in early challenge vs. Dodgers (2)

“I think this is a fun series,” manager Craig Counsell said Friday morning. “You get to challenge yourself against a good team. This is a team that's been to the playoffs [11] years in a row, been to the NLCS a whole bunch.”

Chicago came out to play on Friday, with big defensive plays like Busch’s and by outpacing a dangerous Dodgers offense.

The Cubs opened the season with consecutive losses against the reigning-champion Rangers, scoring a combined five runs in those games. In five games since, they’ve scored 44 runs despite cold, rainy and blustery conditions.

“We're just having really good at-bats,” Cubs left fielder Ian Happ said. “I think [since the] first series, getting a couple of those games under our belt, the offense has been super consistent. We hit some balls really hard in Texas, too, that we didn't get rewarded for. So the consistency of the offense, having really good at-bats, everybody stringing them together, [we’re] giving ourselves a chance.”

The Cubs fell behind 2-0 in the first inning on Friday, as Los Angeles sent seven hitters to the plate and forced starter Kyle Hendricks to throw 33 pitches. Meanwhile, Dodgers starter Bobby Miller struck out Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger in order.

The offense’s consistency shined through in the second. The Cubs drove up Miller’s pitch count with patient, deep plate appearances. After Dansby Swanson hit a solo homer, the next six Cubs hitters saw at least five pitches, including Busch, who walked. The Cubs scored four more times in the inning and chased Miller from the game.

“Just taking good at-bats and moving the line,” Counsell said. “We've done a really nice job of that consistently, and it turned into a big inning.”

Happ saw nine pitches against Miller in the second, fouling off two two-strike fastballs before drawing a walk. He scored on Suzuki’s two-run double. The Cubs' right fielder saw nine pitches from Miller and fouled off three straight 2-2 offerings.

“He's a good pitcher,” Busch said of Miller. “He's going to get his outs, he’s going to get his strikeouts. But the more that we can force him in the zone, force him to make good pitches, it's tough. It's tough as a pitcher, no matter if you have really good stuff like he does.”

Busch, acquired from the Dodgers in a trade on Jan. 11, also hit his first home run with the Cubs, a solo blast to right field off Dinelson Lamet in the third that landed in the basket.

“That was a good one,” Busch said. “For a second, I thought it wasn’t going to get out there. Just happy to get one on the board.”

For all the runs scored on Friday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pointed to the Cubs’ defense, including ho*rner’s diving stop to his right in the fourth. He got up quickly to throw out Gavin Lux at first, robbing him of a potential two-run single.

“Defensively, they were really sound,” Roberts said. “They made the plays they needed to and really minimized our potential for more damage.”

There is a lot of baseball left to be played this season, but the Cubs are enjoying the early challenge the Dodgers present.

“It’s going to be a long season,” Hendricks said. “There's going to be a lot of challenges. But this is a fun and exciting one, obviously. Really good challenge early for us just to see where we stand. The crowd was amazing. … So it was just a really fun ballgame to be a part of.”

Cubs flex bats, gloves in early challenge vs. Dodgers (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated:

Views: 6596

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.