Chicago Cubs Preview: Opening Week (April 5-11)

Alex KanteckiContributor IApril 5, 2010

MILWAUKEE - JULY 31: Fans of the Chicago Cubs hold up a win flag in the outfield after the Cubs complete a four game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 31, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 11-4.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ready for the first pitch?

The Chicago Cubs open up the 2010 campaign facing the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field at 3:10 PM CST today for the first time in the club’s history. Only four other times have the Cubs and Braves met in an opener.

The most recent matchup was at Wrigley Field in 1993, when Greg Maddux pitched his first game as a Brave and shut out the Cubs, 1-0, in 8 1/3 innings of work. Maddux went on to win the Cy Young Award in ‘93, and in ’94...and in ’95.

The clubs also met twice when the Braves called Milwaukee home in 1956 and ’57.

Carlos Zambrano gets the nod in his sixth straight Opening Day start for the Cubs. Last year, Big Z won his first opening day start as the Cubs edged the Astros, 4-2, at Houston.

After three games in Atlanta, the Cubs travel to Cincinnati for a three-game series before their home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, April 12.

Here is a preview of the first week. Pitching matchups are subject to change .


Chicago Cubs @ Atlanta Braves

Monday, 4/5: Zambrano, Carlos (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Lowe, Derek (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Wednesday, 4/7: Dempster, Ryan (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jurrjens, Jair (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Thursday, 4/8: Wells, Randy (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Hanson, Tommy (0-0, 0.00 ERA)


On the mound

Zambrano goes for his second straight opening day victory, but Big Z has struggled in 11 career starts against the Braves, going 2-3 with a 4.48 ERA. Zambrano, however, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts at Turner Field.

Surprisingly, the Braves chose veteran Derek Lowe as their Opening Day starter and not last year’s ace—Jair Jurrjens. Cubs fans probably remember Lowe best from when the sinker-baller kept the Cubs off balance in Game One of the ’08 NLCS with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lowe pitched six innings and allowed just two runs to outduel Dempster and the Cubs went on to lose the series in three games.


At the plate

Alfonso Soriano looks to start off hot and facing the Atlanta Braves might be a helpful start for the free swinger. In 40 career games against the Braves, Soriano holds a career .343 BA, his second highest against any opponent, and has knocked out 16 home runs.

In 2007, Soriano had one of his most memorable games with the Cubs, belting three home runs in the first four innings of a game at Turner Field.


Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati Reds

Friday, 4/9: Silva, Carlos (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Bailey, Homer (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Saturday, 4/10: Gorzelanny, Tom (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Harang, Aaron (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Sunday, 4/11: Zambrano, Carlos (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Leake, Mike (0-0, 0.00 ERA)


On the mound

Carlos Silva’s first start as a member of the Cubs should be of particular interest. Silva actually pitched well in the spring to the tune of a 2-1 record with a 3.80 ERA in 21 1/3 innings, along with an impressive 11:2 strikeout to walk ratio.

Silva will get hit and needs to rely on the defense behind him, but he should keep the team in the game on most days. 


At the plate

If the Cubs struggle with power at Turner Field, Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park (GAB) should help flip the switch. In 2009, GAB yielded the sixth most home runs in the MLB and this season should not be any different. Expect a barrage of big flies in Cincinnati.


Week 1 Prediction: 3-3 overall (2-1 @ Atlanta; 1-2 @ Cincinnati)

The Cubs fall in the season opener against Derek Lowe, who is 2-1 with a 3.17 ERA in nine starts against them, but the team bounces back to win the last two games in Atlanta with strong pitching and timely hitting.

In Cincinnati, the Reds take the first two games by outhitting and overpowering the Cubs’ arms, but Zambrano comes back strong Sunday to push the team back to .500 before opening up at home against the Brewers on April 12.