For the second time this Spring, Micah Hoffpauir stroked a game-winning HR, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-4 before an all-time single-game Cactus League record crowd of 12,917 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
I can tell you that Diamondbacks fans in attendance at HoHoKam Park today were none too happy when they found out that everybody in the Snakes' starting lineup (except the starting pitcher and the catcher) were minor leaguers sent to Mesa from Arizona's minor league camp in Tucson. No Stephen Drew. No Chad Tracy. No Eric Byrnes, No Orlando Hudson. No Conor Jackson. Instead, fans got to see Matt Erickson, Jesus Cota, Chris Rahl, and Donnie Sadler.
The Cubs were just slightly better, resting starters Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Michael Barrett, and Cesar Izturis, but at least Cubs fans did get to see D-Lee and A-Ram pinch-hit, and they also got to see a reasonably "big league" Cubs starting lineup, not including the two guys who came up to HoHoKam from Fitch Park (Daytona Cubs RF Tyler Colvin and C Mark Reed). The Iowa Cubs had the day off today, so most of their players were at the game, although only a half-dozen played.
Lou Piniella opted to start Jacque Jones in CF today, and JJ played center the way it's supposed to be played, assertively and assuredly taking every ball he could get to, and just simply making the play. It was like a breath of fresh-air. Heck, even Matt Murton made a fine running catch in left-center, a play where he actually took a cross-diagonal route instead of running an up-and-out pattern!
Although most of the D'backs at HoHoKam were minor leaguers, Arizona's starting pitcher (LHP Doug Davis) was a major leaguer, as was the Cubs starting pitcher (RHP Wade Miller).
Miller had a poor outing, going three innings (63 pitches - 32/16/15), allowing three hits, three runs (two earned), and two walks, with one K (Donnie Sadler). And remember, Miller was pitching to a lineup of minor leaguers.
Especially excrutiating was Miller's 32-pitch 1st inning, where he fell behind every hitter and just could not put anybody away. The first three batters reached base (a walk, a bunt + E5, and a two-run RBI double) giving the D'backs a quick 2-0 lead, but at least Miller was able to leave Miguel Montero (who had hit the RBI double) stranded at 3B.
The Diamondbacks scored again in the top of the second on a lead-off double by Matt Erickson, a sac bunt by Doug Davis, and an RBI single by Rich Thompson (who was on base all day).
The Cubs began their comeback in the bottom of the second, as Ronny Cedeno laced a two-out double into the LF corner, followed by an RBI bloop single into left-center by Tyler Colvin. The Cubs scored again in the bottom of the 3rd, on a one-out single by Ryan Theriot, a stolen base, and a two-out double by Matt Murton to the far-reaches of right-center field. (Murton has been consistently hitting most of his doubles and home runs to the opposite field this Spring).
Bob Howry pitched the 4th inning, and had an easy nine-pitch 1-2-3 inning (one K), before the Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 4th, keyed by a lead-off double by Mark DeRosa. Ronny Cedeno followed DeRosa's double with a nice piece of "situational hitting," grounding out to second as DeRosa advanced to third. With the infield pulled in, Tyler Colvin blasted a single off the first-baseman's glove and beat the the second-baseman's throw to Doug Davis covering 1st, and then DeRosa was able to score and Colvin advanced to second when Davis threw the ball past the catcher for an E-1. Aramis Ramirez followed later in the inning with a two-out PH RBI double dumped down the RF line.
The Diamondbacks tied the game in the top of the 5th against Will Ohman. Rich Thompson led-off with a single and stole second (his second SB of the game), and scored on a two-out RBI double hit into the left-centerfield power-alley by Mark Reynolds. It was not an impressive outing for Ohman, but at least he got through his one inning of work.
Iowa reliever Hector Almonte (competing for the 12th spot on th I-Cubs staff) probably did himself some good by retiring six straight Baby Backs in the 6th and 7th, before Micah Hoffpauir unloaded his three-run dinger high over the RF fence (following a Theriot single off D'backs pitcher D. J. Carrasco's leg and a walk to Murton) with two outs in the bottom of the 7th.
I still believe Hoffpauir could well develop into a Mark Sweeney/Ross Gload/John Rodriguez type 1B-LF-LHPH. He has a nice batting stroke with HR power, he can hit "cold" off the bench, he's an OK defensive first-baseman, he hustles, and not only that, he is a heckuva nice guy, too (he's a dad gum good ol' boy from Texas).
Clay Rapada looked sharp in the 8th (single, K-called, and a 6-4-3 GIDP), and Rocky Cherry chalked up his 4th save of the Spring (tying him for the ST MLB lead in saves) with a scoreless 9th (F-8, K-swinging, a single, and another K-swinging) to end the game.
Offensively, Ryan Theriot had two singles, a walk, and a stolen base, Matt Murton was 2-4 (including a double) with an RBI and a walk, Ronny Cedeno was 2-4 with a single and a double, and Tyler Colvin was 2-4 with an RBI. Cliff Floyd had a PH single.
Daryle Ward was 0-3 with two Ks (both against LHP Doug Davis) and looked really stiff and immobile at 1st base.
The Cubs are probably already at Sky Harbor Airport and may even be on the airplane en route to Las Vegas, where they will be playing the Seattle Mariners in a two-game series (Friday night and Saturday afternoon) at Cashman Field, in preparation for Opening Day at Cincinnati on Monday. Ted Lilly is the scheduled Cubs starter in the Friday night game (which will be televised on WGN-TV), and Jason Marquis will start the Saturday afternoon game (a CSN TV game). Iowa Cubs RHP Rocky Cherry, LHP Carmen Pignatiello, 1B Micah Hoffpauir, 3B Casey McGehee, and OF Chris Walker will be traveling to Las Vegas with the big club.
Rich Hill gets his last ST start Sunday at Fitch Park in Mesa, pitching for the Iowa Cubs in a minor league ST game against the Salt Lake Bees (LAA).