Colorado Rockies vs Chicago Cubs: Series Preview

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Aug 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) by third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) and left fielder Corey Dickerson (6) for his two run home run in the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve had our fun with the return of baseball in Milwaukee. Now let’s double down on the pomp and circumstance with the Colorado Rockies’ home opener against the Chicago Cubs April 10, 11, and 12

DATES, TIMES, AND PITCHERS

Friday, April 10, 2:10 pm, Tyler Matzek (0-0, 0.00) vs. Travis Wood (0-0, 0.00)

Saturday, April 11, 6:10 pm, Kyle Kendrick (1-0, 0.00) vs. Jason Hammel (0-0, 0.00)

Sunday, April 12, 2:10 pm, Jordan Lyles (1-0, 3.00) vs. Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 0.00)

KEYS FOR THE ROCKIES

More from Colorado Rockies News

After an impressive offensive outburst and series win on the road in Milwaukee, the Colorado Rockies return home to face the Chicago Cubs.

For the Rox, Tyler Matzek’s start in the home opener is the key to the series – and one of the keys to the season.

The club can’t count on Kyle Kendrick to throw seven shut out innings every outing like he did in Milwaukee, and young Matzek has to step up after breaking out at the end of last season.

We know the bats will show up in Coors Field; with the lineup the Rockies put out there, scoring runs isn’t the question.

But as it goes every year, pitching will take this team as far as it will go. The series against the Cubs may go a long way to proving that, good or bad.

KEY NUMBER

5.38 or 1.55?

Which Matzek do the Rockies get this year? He finished his 2014 campaign (6-11, 4.05) on a high note, after starting  2-9 with a 5.38 ERA. In his final six starts, he went 4-2 with a 1.55 ERA.

Which Matzek will show up on Friday?

It now appears Jorge De La Rosa will return by April 14th, so the Rockies won’t be without the services of their ace for too long, but the club still needs Matzek to be closer to his final 40 innings than his first 77 from a year ago.

LET’S MEET THE CUBS

To preview the Chicago Cubs, we spoke to the editor of CubbiesCrib.com, Jacob R. Misener.

Here’s what to expect from the Cubs this series, and this summer.

Follow Cubbies Crib on Twitter.

Follow editor Jacob Misener on Twitter.

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Let’s start with a guy who’s not even in the big leagues: Kris Bryant. We’ve all read what everyone has to say about him – what do Cubs fans think? Is the extra year of control important, or should he be up now? What’s the word about Bryant, and more importantly, what do you think he’ll do for the club this summer?

The importance of the extra year of control of Bryant in his prime cannot be overstated. Simply put, if the Cubs can’t generate enough offense to make it through a portion of the month of April, having Bryant won’t be enough to make this team a contender. He’s set to open the year with Triple-A Iowa, and should be with the big league club before the calendar turns to May.

I think that he’ll definitely make an impact – but that people are expecting the impossible. He’s going to strike out – maybe not as much as Javier Baez, who opened the year at Iowa, as well – but a decent amount. That being said, he’ll bring excitement and energy (as well as some eye-opening power) to the lineup all year long.

Joe Maddon is running the ship this season. What have you seen from the way he manages thus far in Spring Training, and what should we expect from the Cubs this series?

Maddon is a breed of his own. He seems to truly care about his players not just as cogs in a machine, but as individual human beings. He’s been much more fun-loving and relaxed than what we’ve seen in years’ past and I think he’ll be in the Windy City for a long time to come.

Expect him to rely heavily on his bench and bullpen (he used two pinch-hitters and five relievers on Opening Night) – and don’t ever think that you can pencil in the lineup in a particular fashion. Why? Because he batted Jon Lester eighth on Opening Night – only the second time that’s been done in Cubs’ history.

It looks like the Rockies will see Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester in the series; what’s the rotation look like and what should Rockies fans know about the starters for the weekend?

The rotation lines up as follows: Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks. You can see Maddon’s left-right-left-type of thinking even here, with the rotation shaking out as L,R,R,L,R. Wood is coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign – but was better this spring. His success depends on his ability to keep the ball down in the zone.

Hendricks should be a solid back-end starter – but will likely take a step backwards after a dominant rookie campaign. He’s not a power pitcher by any means – for the right-hander, it’s location, location, location. And we all know the book on Lester – his biggest issue is his inability or unwillingness to throw over to first and hold runners on – and it could be exploited by Colorado.

Piggy-backing off that – Lester’s first two starts look to be against the arch rival Cardinals, and then at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Welcome to the National League! He only threw 8.1 big league innings this spring, though. What do you expect out of him this season?

Opening Night was obviously a disappointment. He lasted into the fifth, but gutted his way through to allow three runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. He was roughed up for eight hits (although his defense did him no favors) – so he’ll be hungry to prove himself when he takes on the Rockies. I expected 12-14 wins and a low-3.00 ERA from the southpaw in 2015.

[EDITOR’S NOTE UPDATE: Jon Lester will not pitch in the series at Coors Field. The Rockies will see Travis Wood, former Rockie Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks.]

You’ve got some new faces (besides Lester) including former Rox outfielder Dexter Fowler. How has Fowler looked this spring, and what do you expect out of him this season?

Fowler is the first legitimate leadoff man the Cubs have had in years – and I think he really adds a dimension to the top of the lineup. He’s going to not only be a quality bat ahead of Castro, Rizzo and the kids – but also, I expect him to serve as a mentor to the young prospects making their way to the big leagues in 2015. This is probably the most underrated move the Cubs made this offseason.

Unrelated to baseball, and to this series, since it’s in Denver… what do you really think of the new Jumbotron in Wrigley?

Well, I can say after experiencing the new video board in-person on Opening Night, it’s something that completely changes the experience at Wrigley Field. For me, though, it was long-overdue. Having the statistics and other information available throughout the game – as well as the ability to see replays on close plays – is a must-have in today’s game.

Finally, I’ll ask you a similar question to what I asked Pete Schwichtenberg at ReviewingTheBrew.com. Ryan Braun, Brandon Phillps and Yadier Molina are going down in a sinking ship. You can only save one. Who do you pick, and why? (Pete opted to save Joe Maddon: “I am not looking forward to the Cubs back at the top of the division, but Maddon would be worth keeping simply for his interviews. Listening to him talk is just crazy.”)

To be honest, I’d sit in my lifeboat and watch all three of them go down with the ship. Yadi has always been a Cubs’ killer and I’ve never been a huge fan of Braun (for obvious reasons) – or Phillips. In terms of rivalries, though, there’s nothing like Cubs-Cardinals. To me, that’s like Yankees-Red Sox or Duke-UNC. Just nothing like it.

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