Well, opening weekend of the 2011 season has come and gone, and the Chicago Cubs (1-2) managed to play to most critics' expectations by dropping the first series to its recently established nemesis, the Pittsburgh Pirates. No longer the team's go-to for easy wins, the Pirates showed resilience by coming back in the ninth inning of Sunday's rubber game against what many had assumed was the Cubs' greatest strength in closer Carlos Marmol. Here's a look at what was learned in games one, two, and three.
1) Starlin Castro is the real deal. Manager Mike Quade played around with Castro as the leadoff hitter on Sunday, and Cubs television broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly mentioned that he may eventually be a candidate for the three-hole. But what I really want is for Castro to bat first, second, and third. Today, he worked the count from 0-2 to earn a walk to lead off the game. This came a day after the Cubs showed horrible patience by going through several seven-pitch innings as a team.
With regards to leadoff hitters, I think Kosuke Fukudome has shown some patience, but Castro provides more of a speed threat. Two triples today and a .615 batting average to start the season ain't half bad. I say give him as many at-bats as possible, so that equates to another start at leadoff.
2) The Cubs starting pitching may keep them in contention. All three starters (Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza) made it through six innings and they were able to keep the Cubs in each ball game. True, Dempster gave up the two big homers, but Friday's weather was less than desirable, and Quade will probably pull him in similar situations later in the season.