By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Left-hander Brett Anderson won his first game as a Cub on Thursday, throwing five shutout innings against the Dodgers, his former team. His outing was backed by some stellar defense from outfielders Albert Almora and Jason Heyward that helped Chicago to a 4-0 win at Wrigley Field in a game that could’ve easily gone the other way.
“It was a grind,” said Anderson, who allowed three hits and walked four but got out of several jams. “It was a huge grind for me normally being a groundball pitcher. I knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest or most economical day. Any time you can throw up there a scoreless outing, I will take it.”
Two catches by Almora in deep center field were difference-makers. With a strong east wind blowing in off of the lake on a 49-degree day, only balls crushed in the power alleys were going out the park. The Cubs did get two of those, with first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Addison Russell hitting solo shots for their first homers of the season.
“I owe Almora my paycheck for the day,” Anderson said. “Those are plays you don’t expect to be made behind you. Two web gems. Then (Kyle) Schwarber almost made another one off the ivy. At least I made some key pitches to get out of some jams.”
Almora has long been considered the best defensive outfielder in the Cubs’ system, and his glove work and ability to make the sensational play is an upgrade over that of Dexter Fowler’s of last season.
Manager Joe Maddon is blessed with quality defensive players all over the diamond who have the flair for the dramatic.
“We played the heck out of defense,” Maddon said after the Cubs improved to 6-3. “Albert was fantastic. The outfielders played a big part in the game. Give our defense credit. There were a lot of little nuisances in that win for us. Without that defense, the game doesn’t look anything like that.”
A predominant groundball pitcher, Anderson was up in the zone Thursday.
“The game, as I said, was a grind from pitch number one,” Anderson said. “The outfield play and the whole wind dynamic made it easier for me.”
The Cubs have had outstanding starting pitching in the season’s first nine games, over which they’ve posted a 2.39 ERA, the best mark in the big leagues.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.