Baez homers twice in Cubs' blowout win over Rangers
|Thursday, March 28, 2019, 7:20 PM- -|
ARLINGTON, Texas — Javier Baez came up short in the race for National League MVP last season, and, if Opening Day of the 2019 slate is any indication, the superstar Chicago Cubs (1-0) infielder is on a mission to win that race this time around. Becoming the first Cub to homer multiple times on Opening Day since 2003, Baez drove home four of Chicago's 12 runs in the season opener against the Texas Rangers (0-1). The Cubs won 12-4 on Thursday at Globe Life Park in the first of three games coming against the Rangers to begin the season.
The Cubs tallied 13 hits and eight walks in a game that saw the entire starting batting order for Chicago reach base at least once. Although the Cubs greatly benefited from their three home runs, including the pair by Baez, Chicago created plenty of offense via small ball. Hard-fought at-bats, infield hits and seeing-eye singles were all fixtures of the Cubs' shellacking of the Rangers. In the pitching department, Cubs pitchers were taken for just six hits and two walks.
Baez manned shortstop while in the field and went 2-for-5 with four RBI while batting cleanup in the season opener. Prior to Thursday, no Cub had recorded multiple home runs on Opening Day since outfielder Corey Patterson did so in 2003. Elsewhere in the lineup, outfielders Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward each tabbed a couple of hits, as did second baseman David Bote. Looking to have a rebound campaign following an injury-plagued 2018, third baseman Kris Bryant blasted a 2-run shot for his sole hit of the day. Also of note, outfielder Mark Zagunis, who appeared on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, went 1-for-2 with an RBI standup double. Workhorse Jon Lester earned the start in the Cubs' debut game for the third straight year, and he did not disappoint, as the veteran left-hander pitched six innings of 4-hit ball and received the winning decision for his efforts.
Lester overcame an early mistake, though, with the Rangers taking a 2-0 lead on a 2-run home run from shortstop Elvis Andrus in the third. Baez responded with a 395-foot blast into left field in the top of the fourth. Mike Minor made the start on the mound for Texas and did not fare too well in his Rangers debut. Minor gave up six runs in 4.2 innings on the rubber, and he was largely responsible for the Cubs' 6-fun fifth. The Cubs scored three runs in the frame to chase Minor from the contest and pave the way for former Cubs reliever Jesse Chavez to enter the game. Interestingly enough, the Rangers traded Chavez to the Cubs last season, and he returned to Texas this past offseason. Baez did not go easy on his former teammate, however, when he clubbed a 3-run shot off him to put the Cubs up 7-2 in the fifth. Chavez gave up two more runs in the next inning. Almora brought in a run on an infield single, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo drew a walk with the bases loaded to usher home a runner. In the eighth, with the Cubs boasting a sizable 10-2 advantage, Bryant put a bow on the impressive outing by the North Siders with a 426-foot jack to right that provided him with his second and third RBI in the affair.
With the 12-2 win, the Cubs began their quest to "own it now" in 2019 with a lopsided victory. The interleague series will pick up again on Saturday, March 30, at 7:05 p.m. CDT. Yu Darvish will get the start for the Cubs against his former team in his attempt to leave his woeful 2018 season behind. He will face off against Edinson Volquez. The 3-game set in Arlington is part of a 9-game road trip for the Cubs to start the year.