Ward's Dinger Leads Cubs to Victory

Daryle Ward hit a PH two-run home run to cap a four-run 4th, as the Cubs defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-4 before a capacity crowd at HoHoKam Field in Mesa this afternoon. Ward was making his 2008 Cactus League debut, after being out of action the past couple of weeks with a sprained butt.

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Ted Lilly got the start for the Cubs today, and faced what was very close to what likely will be the Mariners regular season starting lineup (the only missing parts being DH Jose Vidro and 3B Adrian Beltre).

The left-hander struggled a bit right at the outset, walking Ichiro on five pitches and giving up a HR just inside the LF foul pole to #2 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt. But then the Tedster settled down and looked VERY sharp, retiring the next nine men he faced, including four on strikes (Richie Sexson, Brad Wilkerson, and Betancourt swinging, and Mike Morse looking).

For the day Lilly, went 3.0 IP, allowing only one hit (the HR), two runs, a walk, and four K. He threw 46 pitches (30 strikes) over the three innings (23 pitches in the 1st inning, and then just 23 pitches combined in the 2nd and 3rd).

Down 2-0, the Cubs came right back in the bottom of the 1st against Mariners starter Carlos Silva with two runs of their own.

Ryan Theriot led-off with a ground single between 1st and 2nd, and then stole second base uncontested. Kosuke Fukudome (still hitting 2nd in the order) worked a walk, and then Derrek Lee lined a misplayed double over a sprawling Brad Wilkerson's head in RF, scoring The Riot and sending Kosuke to 3rd.

Aramis Ramirez--who was making his 2008 Cactus League debut today after missing the last week with a sore shoulder--took a couple of close pitches before drawing a walk, and then the second run scored when Matt Murton grounded into a 4-6-3 DP with the bases loaded.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the 4th, when Matt Murton led off with a ground single to CF. The Cubs then executed a picture-perfect hit & run, as Mike Fontenot grounded a single between 1st and 2nd, with Murton advancing easily to 3rd. Henry Blanco followed with a line single to right-center to score Murton and send Fontenot to 3rd, and then the second run of the inning scored on a 4-6 FC RBI grounder by Felix Pie. And that's when PH Daryle Ward came off the bench to crush his HR over the right-field fence, looking like he hadn't missed any time at all.

After Lilly threw his three innings, Les Walrond needed only eight pitches (seven strikes!?) to work a 1-2-3 4th.

Rookie RHP Tim Lahey worked the 5th inning for the Cubs, and struggled with his control. Throwing 22 pitches (only half for strikes), Lahey walked two before getting the third out. He does not appear to be ready for "prime time."

Neal Cotts pitched next, and bounced-back nicely after a nasty outing his last time on the mound to nail a 1-2-3 6th on just 11 pitches (P-3, F-8, and a K-swinging).

Carmen Pignatiello pitched the 7th (only nine pitches for Tiggy), allowing a double into left-center that Brad Wilkerson tried to stretch into a triple, only to get shot-down at third thanks to two perfect throws, the first being a bullet from Felix Pie to Ryan Theriot, and the second a strong relay from Theriot to 3rd baseman Alex Cintron, who applied the tag on the sliding Wilkerson.

Kevin Hart came on to pitch the 8th, and had a bad outing. He struggled with his control, walking the first hitter, before giving up a rocket shot hit by Bronson Sardinha that caromed off his leg for a single (Hart then threw the ball into RF for an error, allowing the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd). After taking about four or five warm-up pitches to make sure he was OK, he hit Jeff Clement with an 0-2 pitch, loading the bases with no outs.

Hart was able to get Betancourt out on a sharply-hit RBI grounder to Micah Hoffpauir (unassisted) at 1st, before Manager Lou Piniella decided he better get Hart out of the game so the young right-hander could maybe get some ice on his leg.

LHP Edward Campusano came into the game with the tying run at the plate, one out, and runners on 2nd and 3rd, with the Cubs up 6-3. Facing two left-handed hitters, Campusano gave up a sac fly to CF by Raul Ibanez, before getting Bryan LaHair for the final out of the inning on a grounder to second.

Carlos Marmol worked the 9th, but was not sharp. He threw 27 pitches, and was behind on just about every hitter he faced, giving up a single and a walk, before striking out Sardinha (looking) to end the game. Marmol would have had an even tougher inning, if not for an outstanding diving catch by shortstop Andres Blanco on a line drive that appeared headed for LF.

Besides Ward's HR, Kosuke Fukudome went 1-3 with a breath-taking "hustle" double to left-center in the 3rd (and you could just tell he was going to try for two the second he left the batter's box!), a walk, and a run scored, and Matt Murton played LF and went 2-4 with two singles and a run scored, as Alfonso Soriano remains out of Cactus League game action with a fractured finger.


does theriot have a perm green this spring (or at least so far) or are the coaches working his running?

What chance does Campusano have of making the big club? If memory serves, he was on track to make the Tigers' opening day roster before requiring Tommy John surgery.

Omar: If Lou is insistent that he absolutely must have two lefties in the bullpen, then Pignatiello, Cotts, Campusano, and possibly Marshall (if he can even work out of the pen) would be the in-house candidates.

Ward has been a great addition to this team. One of my favorite players on the Cubs at the moment.

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