Sho Time: Imanaga dazzles in MLB Debut
David Banks - USA Today Sports

Sho Time: Imanaga dazzles in MLB Debut

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - You have to love spring weather in Chicago, as the Chicago Cubs (2-2) opened their Wrigley Field portion of the schedule against the Colorado Rockies (1-4) Monday afternoon. What is expected to be an interesting week weather-wise, to say the least, is that spring felt like winter on Monday, as low 40-degree temperatures mixed with the blustery wind coming off Lake Michigan made things feel like 34 degrees at first pitch.

No one likes to play in those conditions, but it didn't seem to bother either of the starters, especially Shota Imanaga, who was making his MLB debut. Japanese players are always hit or miss in terms of how they adjust to the MLB game. You especially question their ability to adjust when you see conditions like this, as they will most often never see temps that cold in Japan.

Imanaga looked like a natural out there as he dominated the Rockies through six innings, scattering two hits, striking out nine, and not allowing a single run. He took a no-hitter into the sixth, only to have Charlie Blackmon end it as the Cubs took care of business at home 5-0.

Imanaga may have been the story of the game, but you at least have to give Dakota Hudson some credit as he went pitch for pitch with the Cubs left-hander through five innings. After allowing just one hit through five, Hudson returned to pitch the sixth, and things unraveled. Granted, he wasn't as sharp as Imanaga, but Hudson still only allowed four hits in 5 1/3 and no earned runs. Unfortunately for him, he will take the loss as a costly error allowed three runs to score in the sixth, which is all the Cubs offense would need.

The command was an issue for Hudson early on with Ian Happ leading things off with a walk in the first followed by a two-out Christopher Morel single to put the Cubs in business. Nothing came from that rally, but to see the Cubs put pressure on right away was encouraging. That was the brunt of the action for quite some time as a leadoff error for Kris Bryant in the second was the lone Rockies baserunner through five innings, while that first-inning single from Morel was the only hit up to that point.

Still tied 0-0 in the sixth, Imanaga came back out looking to keep his no-hitter intact. He did so over the first two hitters, only to see Blackmon come through with a two-out single to break up the potential no-hit bid. A Brendan Rodgers single followed that before Imanaga closed out his outing with his ninth strikeout to end an impressive debut.

Looking to break through in their half of the sixth, the Cubs relied on the top of their order to get the job done as Happ and Seiya Suzuki picked up a pair of singles. Then came the game's biggest play, as the one-out single by Morel pushed across the winning run, but so much more happened on that play.

Not only did a fielding error by Nolan Jones allow Suzuki to score on that play, but Jones also uncorked a throwing error, resulting in alittle-leaguee homer for Morel and putting the Cubs in front 3-0.

Morel doesn't get credit for a homer or three RBIs, but he does get credit for the game-winning hit, which is all that matters. Following that play, Hudson was removed in favor of Nick Meary, as this was now a battle of the bullpens.

Happy to see Imanaga out of the game, the Rockies began to rally off Yency Almonte and immediately put pressure on him in the seventh with the one-out Ryan McMahon single. Two batters later, Almonte walked Ezequiel Tovar to put a pair of runners on, leaving them stranded on the bases.

The Cubs learned firsthand how important it is to add on runs against the Rangers over the weekend, and they made sure to add on against Peter Lambert in the seventh. With Nico Hoerner and Mike Tauchman getting things started with a pair of singles, the Cubs offense was again in business. In danger of coming away with no runs, Suzuki worked a two-out walk to keep the inning alive before Cody Bellinger lacedan two-run single to right to extend the Cubs lead to 5-0.

Suzuki was thrown out on that same play, but with two big runs pushed across, the damage was done as Drew Smyly took over from there. Say what you want about Smyly, but the left-hander was dialed in, retiring all six hitters he faced and only needing 19 pitches (14 strikes) to do it as the Cubs closed out the 5-0 shutout.

Morel and Happ continue to lead the way offensively for the Cubs as Morel picked up two more hits to raise his average to .412 while Happ is sitting at .400.

Six more Cubs had a hit in the game, with Yan Gomes being the only starter without a hit.

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