In what was one of the best outings by any Cubs starting pitcher so far this ST, Wade Miller tossed five innings of shutout ball and appeared (in the process) to have maybe nailed down the 5th starter job, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 3-2 at Scottsdale Stadium today.
Miller threw five innings (6/4 GB/FB), surrendering only three hits and no walks, while striking out five (including Barry Bonds twice). Angel Guzman relieved Miller to start the 6th, and was apparently tracked to pitch four innings and complete the game. However, he wasn't able to finish, as Will Ohman was brought in to get the final two outs and the save. Guzman went 3.1 IP, giving up four hits (including a double and a two-runner homer to Mark Sweeney), two earned runs (the Sweeney dinger in the 8th), but no walks, and 4 K.
An Alfonso Soriano-to-Cesar Izturis-to Aramis Ramirez relay cut-down Sweeney at 3rd base when he tried to stretch a double into a triple in the 6th.
Offensively, the Cubs scored a run in the 2nd off SF starter Barry Zito on a solo HR by Aramis Ramirez, and led 1-0 through five innings. Facing Giants RHP reliever David Cortes in the top of the 6th, Ryan Theriot tripled, and scored on a sac fly by Derrek Lee. D-Lee was involved in the Cubs final run as well, as he doubled and then scored on an RBI single by Tomas Perez against RHP Brian Wilson in the 8th.
I was not at the game in Scottsdale, but I was at Fitch Park in Mesa and saw the Iowa Cubs (AAA) and Tennessee Smokies (AA) play the Milwaukee Brewers AAA and AA affiliates, the Nashville Sounds (AAA) and the Huntsville Stars (AA). The I-Cubs lost 5-1, while the Smokies won 4-3.
Only one Cubs player was at Fitch today, that being Daryle Ward. As is the practice when big leaguers play in the more-informal minor league ST games, Ward went back and forth between the two fields, hitting whenever he had the opportunity, as the #3 hitter in a given inning. It's called "Loading Up on At Bats," and the MLB player does not actually PH for anybody. Rather, he is inserted in the batting order between two spots, usually once each inning, and if possible, one each inning in each game, to get his four ABs as quickly as possible so he can go home.
For instance, Ward's first AB was in the bottom of the 1st inning for Tennessee (because Tennessee starter Sean Gallagher got through his first inning faster than Iowa starter Sean Marshall got through his), and he hit between Joe Simokaitis (who was batting 2nd in the order) and Jake Fox (who was batting in the #3 hole). Then Ward moved to the other field, and got his second AB for Iowa in the bottom of the second-inning, when he hit between Jorge Cortes (who was batting 5th) and Scott Moore (who was batting 6th).
All together, Ward was 2-4, with two singles (a line-drive single to left for Tennessee that helped them score two runs in the bottom of the first, and a line-drive single to CF for Iowa) in his first two ABs, followed by a pop up to center (for Tennessee) and a ground out to second-base (for Iowa) in his final two ABs. All this by the 4th inning! Then he packed up his bats, shook hands with some of the Iowa players and coaches, and split. Sort of like the Lone Ranger. Or Have Bat, Will Travel
Besides the games being free, and no PA announcer, no concessions, no music, and no lame between-inning contests, other differences between MLB Spring Training games and minor league ST games is that in the minor league ST games, teams can use more than one DH (Iowa had a ten-man batting order today, with Val Pascucci DH #1 and Scott Moore DH #2), pitchers are not allowed to exceed 25 pitches in an inning (and once they hit 25 pitches in a given inning, the inning stops--doesn't matter how many outs--and the game goes on to the next half inning), and sometimes the teams will play an extra inning or two (even if he game isn't tied) just to give pitchers some extra work.
Sean Marshall started for the Iowa Cubs (AAA), and he did not fare well. Struggling with his command, bouncing his curve, and unable to spot his fastball, Marshall lasted only 1.1 IP (right around 40 pitches), giving up three hits, two runs (earned), one walk, two K, and a WP. He labored and had difficulty throwing strikes, and was behind on almost every hitter. He is a long, LONG ways away from being ready to help the Cubs, should they need a replacement rotation starter in the early part of the season. (Better keep Angel Guzman stretched out as a starter!).
Carlos Marmol pitched three innings in relief (innings 4-5-6) , and had easy 1-2-3 innings in his first two frames, but then got creamed pretty good in his third inning (three hits--including a long triple, two singles to the outfield, a HBP, and two runs).
Clay Rapada pitched a 1-2-3 9th, striking out the two left-handed hitters (natch) while making them both look foolish, and then getting the right-handed hitter to pull a GO to 3B.
Offensively, the only bright spots for Iowa were a HR by RF Josh Kroeger (ex-AZ) over the high right-field fence and a 2-4 day for 2B Eric Patterson (a triple and a single).
Sean Gallagher started for AA Tennessee, and he was simply outstanding, throwing four innings and giving up only two hits, with no walks, 4 K, and one GIDP. He struck out the side in the 2nd. He threw between 50-60 pitches in his four inning stint, and threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 batters he faced.
Tennessee got three RBI from 3B Matt Craig (a bases loaded single in the 1st and a game-tying sac fly in the 7th), and a game-winning walk-off double off the right-centerfield fence by Brian Dopirak (who is running and walking without a limp these days) following a 9th inning lead-off walk to Craig. Unfortunately, Craig (who is NOT a particularly good defender) also committed a costly error in the 5th inning (after Gallagher had left the game) allowing two Huntsville runs to score. And before his game-winning hit, Dopirak had struck out twice, and looked bad both times.
Jake Fox was the DH for Tennessee today, and he ripped a double down the LF line in one of his ABs earlier in the game.
Besides Gallagher's fine performance, RHP Michael Cooper pitched one inning and threw nothing but his plus-sinker and he threw it for strikes, too (10 pitches, 10 strikes), giving up a ground single before getting a 4-6 FC and then an inning-ending 4-6-3 GIDP. Some of you may remember Cooper as the closer at Boise last season, but he is considered to be an "advanced" pitcher and is being moved fast. (He was the Cubs 26th round draft pick out of Cal-Berkeley last June).
The Iowa Cubs and the Tennessee Smokies are waiting on pins+needles for the final Cubs roster cuts from the big league camp, because those cuts will have a definite and specific impact on some of the I-Cubs and Smokies players (and actually Daytona and Peoria, too, as the roster movement filters downward).