A day after they were shutout on two hits by a trio of Angels pitchers at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, a Cubs split squad exploded for 22 hits, defeating a Seattle Mariners split squad 16-4 before a crowd of 8,625 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today.
box score - CUBS VS SEA at MESA
Temperatures in Mesa were about ten degrees cooler (or maybe I should say "less like hell") than last week (down into the mid 80's from the mid 90's), but there was nary a cloud in the sky, and the desert breeze was occasionally starching the flags, blowing out to LF/CF.
The Cubs Wade Miller and Mariner rookie LHP Ryan Feierabend faced off as the starting pitchers, and the M's jumped off to a quick 1-0 lead against Miller in the top of the 1st. With one out, Jeremy Reed lofted a lazy fly ball to left field that Cliff Floyd somehow misplayed into a two-base error, staggering backwards and sideways like a drunken sailor as the ball bounced off the rock-hard warning track and over the fence. (Because of the record-setting high temperatures and lack of rain, Cactus League infields and outfields are hard as concrete right now). After Adrian Beltre was nicked by a pitch, Miller got Ben Broussard on an "elevator shaft" pop up in front of home plate, and looked like he might get out of the jam, before Mike Morse came through with a two-strike two-out single, scoring Reed from second with an unearned run.
The Cubs responded with a five-spot in the bottom of the 1st against Feierabend, as Alfonso Soriano led-off with a long HR over the left-centerfield fence on a 1-0 pitch. Ryan Theriot followed with a double down the RF line, and then Derrek Lee grounded a single to center, scoring Theriot. Aramis Ramirez followed D-Lee's RBI single with a gargantuan HR that would have cleared the scoreboard, except it was wide-right. After Michael Barrett popped up to short, Cliff Floyd grounded a single to right, and Buck Coats walked. Cesar Izturis hit into a fielder's choice force-out and beat the relay to first with some great hustle, before Wade Miller lined a single to left, scoring Floyd with the inning's fifth and final run.
Miller came back and got a quick three outs in the top of the second, allowing a single to Seattle catcher Rene Rivera, before pitcher Feierabend bunted into a slick 5-6-4 DP to end the inning. (See? Maybe all that infield practice is paying off!). The Cubs continued to pound the young Mariner southpaw in the bottom of the inning, as Michael Barrett clubbed a three-run HR off the LF scoreboard after Lee and Ramirez had singled.
The Cubs took an 8-1 lead into the top of the 3rd, but the Mariners immediately caused problems. Willie Bloomquist led off with a single into the hole between 2nd and 3rd, before Jeremy Reed hit a rocket that went into (and then out of) D-Lee's glove, bounced away, was fielded by Ryan Theriot, only to be thrown away (it was a spectactular attempt by Theriot, though), as Wade Miller was trying to catch the ball on the run while trying to find first-base (at least Miller was where he was supposed to be!), allowing Bloomquist to advance to third. Adrian Beltre then hit a wind-aided HR just over the left-field fence and beyond the reach of a leaping Cliff Floyd, to plate three runs for the visitors, and cut the Cubs lead to 8-4. But then Miller settled down and retired the side easily on a K-GO-GO.
The Cubs responded once again in the bottom of the third, scoring three more runs against new Seattle pitcher RHP Renee Cortez. Cesar Izturis and Alfonso Soriano bounced singles through the infield, and Theriot followed with a triple into the RF corner, scoring both Izturis and Soriano, and then Theriot scored, too, after the Mariners botched the relay throw to the plate in an attempt to get the sliding Soriano, with the ball caroming crazily off Soriano and into the Cubs dugout, allowing The Riot to score.
Miller went 3.1 IP (72 pitches - 26-10-21-15), allowing six hits and four runs (three earned), no walks, one HBP, and one HR, and striking out two (Ben Broussard and Gookie Dawkins, both swinging). He retired four of the last five batters he faced, and I thought he actually threw better than his pitching line might indicate.
Although it appears as though Miller got more ground ball outs than fly ball outs (5/3 GB/FB), it was really more like the other-way around, because two of the GB outs resulted from a sac bunt attempt that was turned into a DP, and one easy-out fly ball was not caught (that was the error by Floyd). Miller mainly induced pop ups and some line-drives, and maybe only three balls total were actually hit into the ground. He was removed after striking out Dawkins (swinging) on an eight-pitch AB in the top of the fourth, as he apparently had reached his pitch limit (which was probably 70-75 today).
The Cubs scored three more times in the bottom of the 4th against one-time Cubs farmhand (and ex-NYY) RHP Aaron Small, who was called into the game after Cortez left after suffering some unknown-type injury while warming up between innings. Michael Barrett greeted Small with a first-pitch HR (his second dinger of the day) up onto the LF berm to lead-off the inning, and then Cliff Floyd drew a walk and Buck Coats bounced a single off the rock-hard infield and over the third-baseman's head. With two outs, Alfonso Soriano worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases, and then both Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee hit consecutive RBI infield singles (and both The Riot and D-Lee really had to hustle to beat the throws, too).
The Cubs threatened still again in the bottom of the 5th, as Floyd and Carlos Rojas (who replaced Cesar Izturis at SS) singled. But PH "Carlos at the Bat" Zambrano (who emerged from the dugout swinging three bats, to wild cheers from the Cubs faithful) struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Cubs did score a run off RHP Justin Lehr in the bottom of the 6th on back-to-back doubles by Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee, Theriot's going into the LF corner, and D-Lee's smoked into left-center. The Cubs final run was scored in the bottom of the 8th on a line-drive RBI single to right-center by Micah Hoffpauir (who had relieved D-Lee at 1B in the 7th), scoring Chris Walker, who had reached base on a two-base error (dropped infield pop-up). BTW, Walker made the catch of the Spring in the top of the 5th, robbing Mike Morse of a two-run HR by leaping higher than he knew how and taking the ball back from beyond the fence, as he fell to the ground, proudly holding the ball high for the second base umpire to see. Needeless to say, Walker got a big-time standing "O" from the fans and high-fives and hugs from his teammates as he retuned to the dugout. It may only be Spring Training, but it was indeed a heckuva catch, folks.
For the day (at Mesa), the Cubs totaled 16 runs on 22 hits and three walks, including four hits for both Ryan Theriot (a triple, two doubles, a single, and two RBI) and Derrek Lee (three singles, a double, and three RBI), a 2-3 day for both Alfonso Soriano (a lead-off HR and a single, plus a walk) and Cliff Floyd (two singles and a walk), plus two home runs by Michael Barrett (a three-run shot and a solo job) and one by Aramis Ramirez (two-run blast). All nine members of the Cubs starting lineup had at least one hit.
Meanwhile, the Cubs bullpen threw 5.2 IP of shut-out three-hit relief (0 BB and 5 K), as Bob Howry, Neal Cotts, Les Walrond, and Michael Wuertz kept the Mariners totally shut-down. In fact, Cubs pitchers issued no walks today in their game at Mesa.
Howry relieved Wade Miller with a runner on 1st and one out in the fourth, and got out of the inning, retiring both men he faced. Howry also retired the Mariners in the 5th, allowing only a two-out double to Ben Broussard that was misplayed somewhat by Floyd (he got a slow start and ran a bad route). The thing is, Floyd can run OK, but he has trouble starting and stopping, which (naturally) has a negative impact on his ability to react to line drives and fly balls hit to his direction in the outfield. You know the term "first step quickness"? Well, Floyd doesn't have that right now. He also walks with a limp, so I doubt very much that he is 100% physically.
Neal Cotts worked the 6th and the 7th innings (33 pitches), and this was EASILY his most-impressive outing of the Spring. Cotts retired six of the seven batters he faced, and he struck out two (those being the last two hitters he faced in his last inning).
Les Walrond labored through the 8th inning (22 pitches, one hit, one K), but did not allow a run, and Michael Wuertz looked healthy, wealthy, and wise in the 9th, quickly and easily retiring the Mariners 1-2-3 on just 10 pitches (K-F7-K).
The other Cubs split squad faced the Milwaukee Brewers at Phoenix-Maryvale, but I was not at that game. However, I can tell you that the Cubs won that one, too! The score was 11-7, and in that game, the Cubs belted out eleven hits and GET THIS--drew SEVEN walks!!!
... including a 3-6 day for Felix Pie (including a triple), two hits each for Daryle Ward (including a double and four RBI), Jacque Jones (including a three-run 1st inning HR), and Ronny Cedeno (two singles and a walk), plus three walks for Mark DeRosa. Just as they did at Mesa, the Cubs scored five runs in the first inning at Maryvale (a three-run HR by Jones, and a two-run single by Geovany Soto).
Also, Sean Marshall (who has been hampered by a sore shoulder) finally got into his first ST game, pitching one inning, with one K and one hit allowed, and OF Angel Pagan (who may be on the trading block) returned to action after missing about a week with a sore side. Rocky Cherry threw a 1-2-3 9th.
box score - CUBS VS MIL at PHOENIX-MARYVALE
The Cubs travel to Tucson tomorrow to face the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field.