Cubs Lose Cactus League Tilt at Diablo
The Cubs traveled down the Red Mountain Freeway (AKA "Loop 202") to Tempe Diablo Stadium today, facing the Angels before a capacity crowd of 8,808 (probably more than half of them Cubs fans) under the bright, sunny Arizona skies.
Loop 202 was closed for most of the day yesterday due to a tractor-trailer fire that involved a HazMat response by the Tempe & Phoenix fire departments. Too bad it wasn't closed again today, because then the Cubs could have just stayed home in Mesa and saved themselves a trip.
As it was, the Cubs left most of their "everyday" players back in Mesa, and so the crowd got to whine (justifiably, IMO) about paying (relatively) big bucks to see a Cubs starting lineup that included the likes of Jake Fox, Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld, and Alex Cintron, instead of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Kosuke Fukudome.
Well, at least the Cubs brought along some of the "front-line" pitching (Jason Marquis, Kerry Wood, and Bob Howry). Except unfortunately for the Cubs fans in attendance, the "front-line" pitching had a bad day...
Said to be battling for the #5 spot in the rotation with Jon Lieber and Sean Marshall, Jason Marquis pitched the first two innings, and was not impressive. He got out of the 1st inning unscathed, although that was mainly because catcher Geovany Soto threw out Chone Figgins trying to steal after Figgins led off the frame with a single, and because Vlad Guerrero hit a monster high fly ball to the very deepest part of CF and into the waiting glove of Felix Pie.
Marquis was not as lucky in the 2nd inning, however. Garret Anderson led off with a walk, and Torii Hunter followed with an RBI double. Then Howie Kendrick drove Hunter in with a one-out single. Marquis left with a final line of 2.0 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB, and 0 K.
Kerry Wood worked the 3rd inning, and got tagged for a three-run dinger off the smokin' hot bat of Torii Hunter. Woody seemed to have some zip on his fastball, but it looked like he had trouble spotting it, and he also hung a couple of breaking balls. Certainly not a good performance for KW (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR), especially after he had looked so good in "live" BP sessions at Fitch Park last week. (And we still don't know if he can throw two or three days in row, either).
Bob Howry gave up the 6th and final run in the 5th, via a single, stolen base, ground out, and a ground single just out of range of second-baseman Mike Fontenot. Though he gave up a run, I thought Howry threw the ball OK. No hard-hit balls. Not a bad outing.
Carmen Pignatiello, Rule 5 pick Tim Lahey (three ground outs, including a spectacular diving stop & throw by third-baseman Bobby Scales), and Edward Campusano (three pop-ups) retired the final nine Angels hitters in order. If Campusano is 100% back from TJ surgery (and it looks like he is), he could help the Cubs in 2008. You may remember Campusano (a Rule 5 selection by the Tigers from the Cubs in December 2006) had made Detroit's 2007 Opening Day 25-man roster before going down with a torn elbow ligament at the very end of ST last year.
The only bright spots on offense for the Cubs today were Matt Murton and Jake Fox. Murt went three-for-three (three hard-hit singles), and Fox went 2-5 as the DH, including a two-run blast that went over the fence just inside the foul pole in the LF corner for the Cubs only two runs. Fox also got the "green light" from Manager Lou Piniella on a 3-0 count in the 8th with two men on base and two out, but got robbed on a great play by Angels third-baseman Matt Brown on a one-hop shot smoked down the 3rd base line.
Felix Pie hit lead-off and went 0-3 (one-hop tap back to the pitcher, a line out to CF, and a K), and Sam Fuld (playing RF and hitting 9th) also went 0-3, with a walk and two strikeouts (one swinging and one called).
Eric Patterson came into the game in the 6th, and played 2B for the first time this Spring. Since it's getting kind of obvious that he might not be able to play OF either, I guess maybe the Cubs are starting to think they might as well leave him at 2B and hope he can improve enough to become at least passably-mediocre there. He handled a couple of easy chances without incident today, which is a good start.
Geovany Soto was 2-4 in throwing out base-stealers, although one of the CS resulted from Chone Figgins going half-way to 2nd base before (intentionally?) getting himself into a rundown, perhaps in a misguided plan to try and score the runner (who was the freakin' CATCHER!) from 3rd base.
The Cubs return to HoHoKam Park tomorrow to face the Giants (again, for the third time already this Spring).