Cubs

Cubs to face Strasburg on Opening Day

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Cubs to face Strasburg on Opening Day

The Cubs will open the 2012 season against Stephen Strasburg, Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced Wednesday. Strasburg, 23, has only thrown 92 innings at the major-league level, but in those he has a 2.54 ERA and a 6.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's never faced the Cubs in 17 career starts.

In his career, Strasburg's fastball has averaged a velocity of just under 97 miles per hour. For reference, his fastball is, on average, 1.7 miles per hour faster than the average Justin Verlander fastball and 3.4 miles per hour faster than Matt Garza's heater, per Fangraphs. And he knows how to use that pitch -- only Cliff Lee and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey have had more success with their fastballs since 2010 than Strasburg.

Johnson also announced that lefty Gio Gonzalez will start the second game of Washington's three-game set to open the season at Wrigley Field. The third game will go to either Edwin Jackson or Jordan Zimmermann.

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

Doug Glanville and Ozzie Guillen join Leila Rahimi on Baseball Night in Chicago to discuss all things baseball.

The talk about the trade that sent Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Royals in exchange for Martin Maldonado, Willson Contreras' injury that sent him to the injured list and an update on the White Sox roster moves and rebuild status.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: