MLB 2023: There’s a new buzz around the Cubs at Wrigley Field

In the 50th — and earliest — season-opener at Wrigley on a hot-chocolate kind of day, fans waved their W flags and pumped out their chests after a 4-0 dusting of the Brewers.

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Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson celebrates with his wife, Mallory Swanson, after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson celebrates with his wife, Mallory Swanson, after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

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Roars returned to Wrigley Field on Thursday. It was Opening Day, so that’s to be expected, but this felt a little different. And we’re not entirely talking about that sizzling two-hour, 21-minute game time.

There is a buzz around the Cubs that we haven’t seen since Joe Maddon packed up his motivational T-shirts and skulked out of town in 2019.

In the 50th — and earliest — season-opener at Wrigley on a hot-chocolate kind of day, fans waved their W flags and pumped out their chests after a 4-0 dusting of the Brewers.

There was a reason to feel good. A rebuild that was never officially allowed to be called a rebuild seems more in the rearview mirror. A Cubs lineup looks formidable again. And the pitching — at least on Day 1 — looked legit.

Starter Marcus Stroman looked midseason solid in six innings, $177 million shortstop Dansby Swanson shook off a spring training “slump” with three hits and the bullpen preserved a shutout in bang-bang-bang efficiency.

After an inning-ending double play in the third, Stroman pounded his mitt while escaping an early jam, revving up the crowd. Then came a four-run rally in the bottom of the inning that revealed some flaws in the Brewers’ defense.

No surprise that fans — heck, there was even a Bill Murray sighting — seemed to love every second of it.

We weathered too many seasons when the Ricketts’ family pretended Chicago was a Kansas City-style small market after that 2016 World Series title. Ross was a hard manager to grade given the lack of talent he was provided.

With a better hand to play, Ross admits he’s a more patient manager now than when he took over before the 2020 season.

“It’s a wild card every day and every year,” he said.

This will be the season to decide if Ross is as likable as a manager as he was as a journeyman catcher. It helps having a true ace.

That’s what Stroman looked like on Day 1.

“These are the moments that are hard to replicate,” Stroman said. “So I am very grateful to have this Opening Day start. . . . I love our group of guys, dearly.”

After his eighth strikeout, Stroman walked off the mound to end the sixth and waved his arms to whip up the Wrigley crowd. He had a dominating debut with six scoreless innings.

“Stro’ set the tone,” Ross said. “Just a good, complete game.”

And quick.

Stroman ushered in the pitch-clock era and made history along the way.

The first pitch-clock violation arrived in the third inning. Stroman goes down as the first offender in Major League history. It was the only one of the game.

Flash back to Opening Day 2022. The Cubs beat the Brewers 5-4 in 3:18 — a game that lasted nearly an hour longer.

With apologies to Nomar Garciaparra and his penchant for choreographed twitches, twists and foot taps between pitches, baseball is better when it doesn’t take as long as the first round of a golf tournament. These guys used to act like they were getting paid by the hour.

Former White Sox ace Mark Buehrle would be proud of the pace set Thursday.

“We got the most exciting set of rule changes I think ever in the game, really, certainly the biggest set,” commissioner Rob Manfred told USA Today on Thursday. “We have great momentum coming into this year.’’

The pitch clock wasn’t the only new twist.

Bases are larger this season. And the bigger bases might have made the difference in a disputed Brewers pickoff attempt in the third inning. The Cubs prevailed after review. With an old base? Might have been an out during what was a four-run inning.

No matter how you slice it, baseball in 2023 looks like it’s off to a good start.

It helps when a Cubs game ends with that W flag being hoisted.

Cue up “Go, Cubs, Go.”

“It’s nice hearing that song,” Swanson said after his first game as a bona fide Cubs hearing that tune. “Amazing city, amazing team.”

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