Angels 0 Cubs 9
The Angels came into Opening Day with laughs and smiles aplenty, in good spirits, floating into the Big A on the steam of a hot Spring Training cloud. There were low expectations, but a fun, nonchalant excitement over what was about to unfold. They put some things together in Tempe, we acquainted ourselves with the new faces and the would-be saviors, and just like that, the season was here. Could they translate that exhibition success into a fast start to the regular season?
If we're to just go off of tonight, the answer is a resounding NO. Opening Day 2016 proved one thing, and that's "Spring Training is OVER". They hyped-up Cubs came into town, a worthy foe for any team's home opener, and the Angels weren't getting off easy tonight. Highlighting the tussle was the team's two aces: Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta vs Garrett Richards. Fans dug in, held their breath, and away we went.
Richards looked nervous in the first inning, giving up a leadoff double to Dexter Fowler, followed by an Anthony Rizzo RBI single. With a quick 0-1 hole dug, he had some obvious jitters, but looked way more settled in once the second inning came around. Of course, the confidence was fleeting, and in the fourth, his day would turn from "manageable" to "not good". He threw a career inning high 41 pitches in the fourth while giving up two RBI singles, one apiece to Jorge Soler and Miguel Montero.
Richards had been dealing with the off-speed stuff prior to that inning, fooling lots of guys in the process. In fact, he had seven Ks over his 5 IP, but that fourth inning, where he let the Arrieta-led Cubs get a 3-0 lead, it would be his undoing. The Opening Day start meant a lot to him, and he showed it intermittently on the bump, but don't take too much from this start. The Cubs don't strikeout that much at all, and they get lots out of every AB...they're just a deadly lineup that Richards got bit by. It happens. If we see Richards use up 96 pitches just to slog his way through a multiple-run deficit more often, then I will worry. Til then, don't trip.
The bullpen didn't fare much better, with Fernando Salas giving up a two-out, two run homer to Miguel Montero in the sixth, and Cam Bedrosian let one on the board via Kris Bryant force out. This was only through the first seven sides, too. Even still, you'd almost begin wishing for some Rally Monkey magic on Opening Day; a little comeback action for the Halos faithful. But Angels fans weren't wishing for anything to happen, because it'd be pointless. Jake Arrieta was on the mound, after all.
Yes, Arrieta was god-like tonight, and put the Angels' lineup in a bad, bad place for the entirety of the game. What could they do, though? This is a guy that came into the game with 13 consecutive regular season starts of allowing 2 or fewer runs. He won the Cy Young Award last season. He's REALLY good, and tonight, he was as filthy as a shoreman on leave. The only positive takeaway I had for the Angels vs. Arrieta was Daniel Nava; he had a hit off of Arrieta, and in another AB he worked him for 9 pitches before striking out. Valiant effort, all you can do really.
The Halos were already out of reach going into the ninth, but Cory Rasmus let them eat a little more cake, giving up a big three-run double by Matt Szczur. Down by six against the Cubs, on a night where the Cy Young king started on the mound, is already a lost cause. The double made it 0-9 Cubs, and you might as well have just turned the lights off in the stadium at that point and called it a day.
The Angels couldn't really do much at all against Arrieta, going long periods without even getting on base, and ultimately getting only two hits against him. It was a lackluster Opening Day for the Halos, to say the least, but it was also a day in which they took on a really, really good team. But hey, the last time the Angels got shut out on Opening Day? 2002.
The first Halos win of 2016 isn't in the stars for tonight, and tomorrow aint no picnic, either. The Angels may need to gel a bit more before taking on some more stacked powerhouses, but I suppose there's also a case for the benefits of competitive and formidable opponents. "The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire", and the Chicago Cubs are FIRE.