With both teams probably "out of pitchers," and with a tie game looming, Ronny Cedeno lofted a two-out three-run walk-off home run off the scoreboard in left field, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 13-10 ten-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals in front of 10,886 fans at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today.
With hot and dry weather having returned to Arizona, and with the desert wind starching the flags and blowing straight-out for almost the entire game, it was pretty clear that today's ST game between the Cubs and Royals would probably be a typical Cactus League slugfest. And it was. The two teams combined for 23 runs on 25 hits (including five home runs, 11 doubles, and one triple), plus nine walks, in the course of the ten innings.
LHP Jorge De La Rosa (KC) and LHP Rich Hill (CUBS) were today's starting pitchers, and the Royals got off to a quick 1-0 lead before an out was recorded in the top of the first inning, as David DeJesus and Esteban German stroked back-to-back line doubles to the outfield fence. But Rich Hill bore down, and wiggled out of the inning with no further damage, as he got Mark Teahan on a ground-out to 1st, Mark Sweeney on a line-drive to 3rd, and Alex Gordon on a fly out to right.
The Cubs came right back and tied the score in the bottom of the 1st, as lead-off man Ryan Theriot worked a walk, stole second, and--after Matt Murton and Derrek Lee both fanned--scored on a two-out double to left-center by Aramis Ramirez.
The Cubs seemingly broke the game open in the bottom of the second, knocking out De La Rosa as they put up a five-spot. With one out, Angel Pagan tripled (and he probably could have pushed it into an inside-the-park-HR) when a long fly took a crazy ricochet off the LF fence and bounced into left-centerfield, and then Cesar Izturis drew a walk. A De La Rosa WP plated the go-ahead run, and then with two outs, Matt Murton and Derrek Lee clubbed back-to-back opposite-field doubles off the right-centerfield fence, before Aramis Ramirez capped the five-run explosion with a two-run HR high and far over the left-centerfield fence.
Meanwhile, Rich Hill was pitching fairly well, retiring nine of eleven between the back-to-back doubles in the 1st and a two-run HR by Emil Brown onto the berm beyond the LF fence with two-outs in the fourth. Hill gave up a one-out single to Tony Pena Jr and a double to David DeJesus in the 5th, but could have been out of the inning with just one run scoring, except Aramis Ramirez bobbled an easy bouncer for an error that prolonged the inning, leading Hill to throw 21 pitches and take him right near his (apparent) 80 pitch limit before the side could be retired. As a result, Hill left the game with two outs in the 5th and runners on 1st and 3rd, and the Cubs leading 6-4.
For the game, Hill went 4.2 IP (79 pitches - 17-9-13-19-21), giving up eight hits, six runs (four earned), no walks, and one HR, with four strikeouts (DeJesus, Shealy, Buck, and Teahan), and a 4/5 GB/FB.
Michael Wuertz followed Hill, entering the game with two outs and runners on 1st and 3rd, and proceeded to throw back-to-back gopher balls to Mark Sweeney and Alex Gordon that quickly turned a 6-4 Cub lead into a 8-6 deficit. Wuertz ended up throwing 1.0 IP and got two Ks, but the two dingers at the very start of his outing was a back-breaker. (But only a temporary one!)
Facing Royals RHP middle-reliever Joel Peralta in the bottom of the 6th, the Cubs stormed back, scoring three unearned runs and re-taking the lead. With one out, Mark DeRosa singled, and Angel Pagan hit a potential 4-6-3 DP ball to the second-baseman. But SS Esteban German could not handle the throw, and both runners were safe, with DeRosa advancing to 3rd. After Izturis drove in one run with a 3-6 FC (just barely beating the potential inning-ending relay to first), Ryan Theriot and Matt Murton slammed back-to-back opposite-field doubles, as the Cubs took the lead back, 9-8.
Will Ohman pitched a strong 1.1 IP (four up and four down, with one K), and Scott Eyre got through his one inning (the 8th), with the only blemish being a two-out walk that led to nowhere.
The Cubs tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th against RHP Octavio Dotel, manufacturing a run as Angel Pagan led off by slicing a single to LF, stole second base, advanced to third on a perfect 1-3 sac bunt by Cesar Izturis, and scored on a Ryan Theriot sac fly to right.
Leading 10-8, Ryan Dempster entered the game for the Cubs in the top of the 9th, facing only minor league players. But he could not get the job done. After striking out the first batter he faced on three pitches, Dempster surrendered a single, a stolen base, a WP, and back-to-back RBI doubles, as the Royals tied the score, before he toughened up and retired the side on a 1-3 GO and another K.
The Cubs were unable to do anything in the bottom of the 9th, just as the Royals did nothing with RHP Federico Baez (easy 1-2-3 inning) in the top of the 10th. (Baez was the designated "emergency pitcher" brought up from minor league camp at Fitch Park for today's game at HoHoKam).
But then Cedeno came through with his two-out game-winning long-ball in the bottom of the 10th, after Izturis and Murton had walked to keep the inning alive.
One item of note is that the Cubs (as a team) drew seven walks today (two by Cesar Izturis, and one each by Ryan Theriot, Matt Murton, Michael Barrett, Cliff Floyd, and Ryan Norwood), while Cubs pitchers only allowed two BB (one by Michael Wuertz and one by Scott Eyre). And Rich Hill has now thrown 15.2 IP in ST this year, and has yet to walk his first batter.
On offense, Murton went 3-4 with two doubles, a single, and a walk, and two RBI, Ramirez was 2-3 with an RBI double and a two-run HR, and Pagan went 2-5 with a triple, a single, and a stolen base.
Before today's game at HoHoKam Park, I had the opportunity to watch Jeff Samardzija pitch again in a minor league game at Fitch Park (the minor leaguers started an hour early today). In the two innings I saw The Shark throw, he gave up two hits, two runs (both earned), and three walks, with no K. He threw 15 pitches in the 1st inning, and 29 pitches in his 2nd inning of work. Of his six "outs," two were CS by catcher Jake Muyco (who has THE best arm among Cubs catchers), and the other four were fly balls. NO GROUND BALLS! Most all of his pitches were up in the strike zone. After his second inning of work, he was met at the dugout by Daytona pitching coach Rich Bombard and catcher Jake Muyco, and they had a long discussion. Then I had to leave to get to HoHoKam, so I don't know how Samardizija's day turned out, but if nothing else, the first two innings must have been an excellent learning experience for him.
The Cubs will host Colorado tomorrow at HoHoKam Park, as the Rockies make their one and only appearance in Mesa this year. Barring a last-minute switch, Mark Prior will get the start. Meanwhile, Cubs Opening Day starter Carlos Zambrano will get his final tune-up by throwing in one of the two minor league games (Cubs AAA versus Giants AAA or Cubs AA versus Giants AA) at Fitch Park tomorrow afternoon.