Just like old times.
A Cubs Spring Training game at HoHoKam Park.
Sammy Sosa in the outfield.
Heck, even Wayne Messmer and his wife Kathy are at the game, singing "God Bless America" before the game and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle of the seventh inning.
Best of all...
Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!! Cubs Win!!
Yes, Daryle Ward clubbed a one-out grand slam HR in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 11,674 fans at cloudy and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. Ward, who has now gone 5-10 with 10 RBI in his last three ST games, had earlier given the Cubs a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the 7th, with a two-out line-drive RBI single.
Jason Marquis (CUBS) and Jamey Wright (TEX) were today's starting pitchers, and the Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st on a one-out opposite-field double ripped down the RF line by Ryan Theriot, followed by a line-drive RBI single to CF by Derrek Lee.
But the Rangers came back in the top of the second, scoring three runs on back-to-back-home runs by Gerald Laird (two-run blast) and Ramon Vazquez (solo). But the Cubs scored three runs of their own in the bottom of the second, as Ronny Cedeno, Henry Blanco (a beautiful hit+run single bounced right to the spot where the shortstop had just vacated to cover second base), and Jason Marquis (grounder through the box into CF) hit consecutive singles to lead-off the inning. Derrek Lee then smoked a two-out double into left-field to score Blanco and Marquis, giving the Cubs back the lead.
Marquis pitched OK through the next 2.2 IP, allowing no runs on two hits and a walk, before surrendering a hard-hit double to Hank Blalock and another monster HR to Gerald Laird (he obviously had Marquis' number today!) with two outs in the 5th.
In what was probably his worst outing of the Spring, Marquis went five innings (75 pitches, 7/4 GB/FB), giving up nine hits, five runs (earned), three walks, and three HR, with four strikeouts (Wright, Teixeira, Laird, and Vazquez) and one GIDP. But up through 4.2 IP, I thought it was an OK outing for Marquis. It's the three HR that are the most troubling, because Marquis has had a good sinker working for him all Spring.
Rocky Cherry entered the game in the 6th and labored, throwing 20+ pitches and giving up a run on two walks, a single, and a sac fly, as the Rangers took a 6-4 lead. Cherry had one K.
Roberto Novoa came into the game for the Cubs to start the 7th, and he could not throw strikes. Everything was high+outside. Novoa threw 15 pitches, 12 of which were balls, as he loaded the bases on walks with nobody out. But then Scott Eyre was brought in, and he was perfect, as he stranded all three runners thanks to a 5-2 ground-ball force-out at home and two strikeouts, ending the inning with no runs scored.
The Cubs came alive in the bottom of the 7th against Rangers reliever Rick Bauer, as Cliff Floyd led-off with a single and Jacque Jones smashed a HR over the upper bullpen in RF. After Mark DeRosa singled and was thrown-out trying to steal, Ronny Cedeno walked and Koyie Hill singled, before Daryle Ward came through with the big two-out line-drive RBI single to right give the Cubs the lead, as Ronny Cedeno just barely beat the throw home with a masterful slide past the catcher's sweeping tag attempt.
Les Walrond pitched a scoreless 8th and had filthy stuff, surrendering two broken-bat singles to go with two strikeouts (Mark Teixeira and Guillermo Quiroz), but Michael Wuertz could not hold the lead and get the save in the 9th. After retiring the first two batters easily, Wuertz gave up a single to Matt Kata, a walk to PH Desi Relaford, and an RBI single to Ian Kinsler, to tie the score (Relaford was thrown out trying to score after the Cubs got Kinsler in a run-down, as the throw to the plate to try and nab Kata was cut-off).
The Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th off Texas AA RHP Jesse Ingram (recalled from the Rangers minor league camp for today's game) on a lead-off single by Tomas Perez, a sac bunt by Ronny Cedeno that turned into a FC and E5 when Rangers third-baseman Drew Meyer fired the ball into CF trying to nab Perez at 2nd (allowing Perez to advance to 3rd), and an intentional walk to Koyie Hill. After Felix Pie popped out, Rangers manager Ron Washington ordered CF Matt Kata to the infield to give the Rangers five infelders (and a hoped for DP with the slow-footed Ward running), but it wouldn't have mattered if there were seven infielders, as DW creamed a 2-2 pitch over the right-centerfield fence to give the Cubs their victory, and send the Cubs fans at HoHoKam home in a state of pure ecstasy.
In Sammy Sosa's first return to HoHoKam Park in three years, he went 1-3 with a FC ground out to 3rd in the 1st inning, an infield single (swinging bunt) in the 3rd, and a ground out to short (spectacular play by Cedeno, as the ball took a crazy hop off the lip of the infield grass and Cedeno somehow managed to grab it out of thin air!) in the 5th. The fan reaction each time Sammy came to bat was mixed, with a lot of loud cheers and also lots of loud boos, but Sosa showed absolutely no reaction. Strictly Mr. Professional.
The Cubs travel to Peoria tomorrow to play the San Diego Padres, and Mark Prior(?) is supposed to get the start. (We'll have to see about that!).