Ian Happ launched a two-run homer in his first at-bat to give the Cubs a 2-0 advantage. Kyle Hendricks, making his first Opening Day start, turned in a strong performance for new manager David Ross.
With at least four teams expected to compete for the division title this year, the Cubs need to get off to a fast start as they look to return to the postseason following last year's disappointing 84-78 record.
Notable Player Stats
Kyle Hendricks (CHI): 9 IP, 3 H, 9 K
Ian Happ (CHI): 1-3, HR, 2 RBI
Anthony Rizzo (CHI): 1-2, HR, BB
Brandon Woodruff (MIL): 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Orlando Arcia (MIL): 3-3
Christian Yelich (MIL): 0-4, 2 K
Kyle Hendricks Rewards David Ross' Faith with Stellar Performance
Ross decided to go with Hendricks, instead of Jon Lester or Yu Darvish, for practical reasons.
"He was up to 75 pitches the other day," Ross told reporters July 16 after Hendricks made an intrasquad start. "He's further along than any of our starters, and it just makes sense for the work that he's put in and his resume as well as he's the one that's ready."
Hendricks wasted no time in proving his skipper right with a complete-game shutout. The only hits he allowed were three singles to shortstop Orlando Arcia.
The major question mark for the Cubs this season is their pitching. Lester is 36 years old and allowed a National League-high 205 hits with a 4.46 ERA in 2019. Jose Quintana is starting the year on the injured list with a thumb ailment.
If the Cubs are going to reach their potential, Hendricks and Darvish will have to carry the rotation. Hendricks passed his first test with flying colors and may have asserted himself as the ace of the staff in the process.
Rough Start Shouldn't Discourage High-Powered Brewers
There might be some panic from Brewers fans based on Friday's result, especially when factoring in Christian Yelich's struggles leading up to the start of the regular season.
"The last couple of days, I finally started feeling a little bit better," the 2018 NL MVP said, per McCalvy. "I made progress every day. The results really weren't there, but it felt like the comfort level was starting to come back. Hopefully, we got it all figured out before Opening Day. The homer made it there right at the buzzer."
The homer Yelich referenced came in Milwaukee's 5-3 exhibition win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. On Friday, he did some damage to the Wrigley Field scoreboard during batting practice:
And though this is a unique MLB season that will be a sprint instead of the traditional marathon, there will be the same daily standout performances by certain players.
If nothing else, the Brewers can take comfort in the fact that their No. 9 hitter made history by recording all three of their hits:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
This is the 5th time since 2010 that one player had 3+ hits and the rest of his team had none (last was DET Leonys Martín on 4/11/2018). Arcia was batting 9th today: It's the first time in the modern era (since 1900) that a 9-hitter has turned the trick. h/t @EliasSports https://t.co/HaLLMTHKjh
Another encouraging sign for the Brewers was the start by Brandon Woodruff. The 27-year-old's only big mistake was the two-run homer to Happ. Otherwise, he was effective for each of his five innings.
Like the Cubs', Milwaukee's ceiling will be determined by its starting pitching. The rotation isn't a deep group with Woodruff expected to carry a heavy burden. His first outing indicated he can live up to the task of being a potential Game 1 playoff starter.
The Brewers and Cubs have a quick turnaround for their second game of the series at Wrigley Field with a 1:05 ET start scheduled for Saturday.