Dodgers Can't Escape the Wrath of Hoff-POWER!
Micah Hoffpauir crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th, turning a two-run Cubs deficit into a two-run Cub lead, as the Cubs defeated the Dodgers 5-3 in the Cactus League opener for both clubs at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny and warm Mesa, Arizona
Today's game marked the Cactus League debut of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Da Bums have moved their Spring Training and Minor League operations from their long-time Dodgertown digs in Vero Beach, Florida, to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. It was very strange to see the Cubs playing the Dodgers in Mesa, let me tell you.
There certainly was no problem with the 80 degree temperatures, but the smallish crowd (7,916) was disappointing. Back in the day, the Cubs Cactus League home opener was ALWAYS a sell-out. But those who were there got to sing "Happy Birthday" to a smiling Ron Santo, before watching the Cubs come from behind to win the game.
Both clubs played a fair number of their regulars, but the Cubs gave the start to Jeff Samardzija, who is battling for the 5th spot in the rotation with Sean Marshall and a couple of others.
The Shark was not particularly sharp this afternoon, allowing two runs (both earned) on three hits and two walks, with one strikeout and a GIDP over his two innings of work (35 pitches - 20 strikes - 3/2 GO/FO).
Samardzija was able to escape the 1st inning unscathed, before loading the bases with no outs in the top of the 2nd. He then got the 1-2-3 comebacker DP he needed and was poised to finish his outing without allowing a run, before #9 hitter Tony Abreu lined a single to CF to plate the first two Dodger runs.
Mitch Atkins followed Samardzija and had a so-so outing, allowing one run on a couple of singles and a stolen base in the top of the 3rd, before throwing a scoreless 4th. Overall, Atkins, went two innings (25 pitches - 16 strikes - 3/2 GO/FO), allowing just the one run on three hits, no walks, one K, and one GIDP.
Five Cub pitchers then threw one shutout inning a piece, holding the Dodgers at bay. Of the five, Dominican RHP Esmailin Caridad was the most impressive, getting three easy ground outs on just ten pitches (seven strikes) in the top of the 6th. Rule 5 RHP David Patton (20 pitches - 14 strikes) surrendered a couple of singles in the 7th, but around that he threw some nasty breaking balls and showed a fastball with some pop, and NRI LHP Jason Waddell (20 pitches - 12 strikes) got a couple of punchouts while also allowing a walk in his one inning of work.
RHP Jeff Stevens (one of the pitchers the Cubs acquired from the Indians for Mark DeRosa during the off-season) had a bit of roller-coaster ride in the 9th while going for the save, putting the tying runs on base on a single and a walk, before getting the final out on a long fly to the warning track in RF. He also got a strikeout along the way, and appeared to have some decent velocity on his fastball, although he did struggle a bit with his command
The Cubs offense was essentially All Hoffpauir, as the DH also plated the Cubs first run on a 4-6-3 DP grounder with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 1st. Hoffpauir struck out with two on and two out in the 3rd, before smoking his bases loaded shot over the fence in right-center field off Dodgers reliever Ramon Troncoso in the bottom of the 5th.
Otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot of offense. Hoffpauir's HR was the only extra base hit of the game for either team, and only Ryan Theriot and Dodger 1B James Loney had more than one hit (both went 2-3 with two singles). .
The defensive play of the game definitely was CF Reed Johnson's diving catch in right-centerfield in the top of the 1st, saving what looked to be a certain double or triple. Johnson laid his body out to full length, before spearing the ball in his trusty mitt.
And catcher Koyie Hill threw a laser to cut down a potential base stealer in the top of the 5th, although he had some ugly swings in his two ABs (a strikeout-swinging and a feeble ground out).
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.