Cubs Drop Cactus League Home Opener
The San Francisco Giants rallied to defeat the Cubs 8-6 this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
The game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s, but it was far from a capacity crowd at HoHoKam, as the announced attendance was only 8,838. There was a time when the Cubs Spring Home Opener was an automatic sell-out (which would be just under 12,000), but not this year.
Carlos Zambrano started for the Cubs and worked two innings (34 pitches – 23 strikes), allowing one unearned run on two hits, no walks and two strikeouts. Zambrano contributed to his own problems, failing to field a bouncer between home and first that would have given “Z” a 1-2-3 first inning. A stolen base and two two-out singles followed, giving the Giants an early 1-0 lead. Zambrano followed with an impressive 1-2-3 second inning, however.
Meanwhile, the Cubs scored three in the bottom of the 1st, as they touched San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez for three runs on three hits and two walks, as the Giants starter threw in excess of 30 pitches before getting three outs. Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with a walk, and after Ryan Theriot struck out swinging, Kosuke Fukudome worked the first of his two walks, setting up Derrek Lee with an RBI opportunity.
D-Lee came through with a line single to RF, but Cubs 3rd base coach Mike Quade held Soriano at 3rd. However, Giants right-fielder Nate Schierholtz bobbled the ball, allowing Soriano to come around and score the Cubs 1st run. Mike Fontenot followed with an RBI ground-rule double that bounced off the rock-hard warning track and up and over the wall in left-center field, as Fukudome came around to score, with D-Lee moving up to 3rd.
Felix Pie struck out swinging, before Alex Cintron came through with a two-out RBI infield single that Giants second-baseman Eugenio Velez was unable to control.
Rich Hill worked the 3rd and 4th innings for the Cubs, allowing one run (earned) on three hits in his two innings of work. Although he threw 38 pitches (25 strikes), Hill did not walk anyone, and struck out three.
The Cubs scored again in the bottom of the 3rd, as Kosuke Fukudome and Mike Fontenot walked, before Alex Cintron knocked a two-out single to left for his second RBI of the game.
The Giants got to within one run in the top of the 5th, scoring a run off Scott Eyre. The veteran lefty reliever needed 26 pitches to get through his one inning, as he was victimized by bad outfield defense. First LF Sam Fuld misplayed a line drive that ended up sailing over his head to the fence for a two-base error(?), and then CF Felix Pie lost a pop-fly in the sun that put runners at 1st and 3rd with nobody out. J. D. Closser and Eyre combined to get the runner at third trying to score on a short passed ball, but the Giants ended up scoring a run on a one-out sac fly, after Eyre loaded the bases on a walk and a HBP.
Juan Mateo had a 1-2-3 6th (nine pitches – two fly balls and a ground out), but Shingo Takatsu surrendered a mammoth game-tying HR to AA OF Eddy Martinez-Estevez in the top of the 7th. Takatsu was throwing his usual slop, and I swear, one pitch was so slow it actually started going back toward the pitcher before it reached home plate! Takatsu definitely wasn’t fooling anybody and was lucky to get out of his one inning with no further damage.
The Cubs retook the lead 5-4 in the bottom of the 7th off veteran righty reliever Vinnie Chulk, as Andres Blanco walked, and came around to score on consecutive two-out singles by Luis Figueroa and Casey McGehee.
But then Les Walrond had the Inning from Hell in the top of the 8th, as he hit a batter, walked two, and gave up a towering PH grand slam HR to Class "A" minor league 3B Ryan Rohlinger. Walrond also was charged with a second hit, a line drive that was misplayed into a single (and it could have been scored an error) by RF Eric Patterson, as the neophyte outfielder got all messed up trying to track a hump-back liner, allowing the ball to carom off his glove.
Carlos Marmol worked a 1-2-3 9th that featured an outstanding sliding catch by CF Andres Torres to end the inning.
The Cubs attempted to mount a last-ditch rally in the bottom of the 9th. Luis Figueroa and Casey McGehee slammed back-to-back one-out doubles off the RF fence, but Eric Patterson bounced out and J. D. Closser popped up to short to end the game.
It wasn’t a good performance by the Cubs young CF candidates, as all three had a misplay in the outfield. Sam Fuld did walk twice, however.
Poor pitching performances are the norm this time of year in Spring Training, what with washed-up vets and minor league guys getting a look, so I certainly wasn’t concerned about the final score. The pitchers who matter looked very good, and that’s the bottom line.
Aramis Ramirez missed the game due to a sore right shoulder. He can hit, but he can't throw.