While the thought of the 2014 Chicago Cubs competing may be seen as a pipe-dream to some, a .500 record this season is not entirely out of the question. One of the largest hurdles to achieving this will be escaping a brutal April schedule without seriously damaging the team’s overall record.
After three one-run games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs can breathe a sigh of relief that they simply did not get swept in the season’s opening series. The Philadelphia Phillies are next on the schedule, and while the Phillies did not make the playoffs last year, they are a veteran team still desperately holding on to a win-now mentality. If the Cubs can escape this series with an overall record of 3-3 it would be a huge win for Chicago.
After a day off on Monday, Pittsburgh will come to town for a three-game series. The Cubs will have Edwin Jackson on the mound to begin the series followed by Jason Hammel and Travis Wood. Given the success of Jackson and Hammel in the opening series, the hope here is that the Cubs can repay the favor to the Pirates and take two out of three.
After Pittsburgh, the initial homestand comes to an end and the Cubs will travel immediately to face the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Jeff Samardzija will take the mound in the opener against Joe Kelly as the Cubs will hope to steal the first game of the series. Winning that first game will be key as the next two days will feature Carlos Villanueva against Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright followed by Edwin Jackson against Michael Wacha in the finale.
After a day off on Monday, Apr. 14 the Cubs will travel to the Big Apple for a quick two-game series with the New York Yankees. Hammel and Wood are the scheduled starters for these two games, and they will face Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the Cubs will see firsthand what they missed out on after whiffing on Tanaka, their one true offseason target.
The second half of April will see the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks come to town before the Cubs travel to face the Milwaukee Brewers and then on to Cincinnati to close out the month. While a successful month of April will guarantee nothing, a slow start will only help to ensure that another fire sale will take place on the North Side of Chicago once the season starts to heat up.
To avoid another mass exodus of players during this year’s trade deadline, the Cubs simply need to flirt with .500 in the first few months, giving fans and management a glimmer of hope that contention for a wild card spot is a possibility. April will potentially be the most important month of the season for the Cubs as a successful first month may buy the team some extra time to compete as the season progresses. A slow start, on the other hand, will cripple any chance the Cubs have of being a surprise team in 2014.
With such a taxing April schedule Chicago is going to need all the support it can get so make sure buy Cubs tickets to support your favorite team.