Marshall Throws Four Shutout Innings, But Cubs Lose
Sean Marshall threw four shutout innings as the Cubs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but the bullpen could not keep the Rangers down, as Texas rallied to defeat the Cubs 7-2 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today, before a crowd of 11,082 under cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-60's.
Both clubs started a regular season type lineup today, and Sean Marshall picked up right where left off last time out, going four innings (45 pitches - 33 strikes, 5/4 GO/FO ) and totally baffling the Rangers "A" team hitters. Marshall allowed no runs on just two hits (both singles), walked none, and struck out three, including Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. Marshall stayed ahead of the hitters, mixing up his pitches and throwing strikes.
Meanwhile, the Cubs scored single runs in the second and third off Rangers LHP Matt Harrison.
Milton Bradley led off the 2nd inning with a single to center, and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. An Aramis Ramirez infield single moved Bradley to third, before Bradley scored on a 6-4-3 DP by Reed Johnson.
Koyie Hill led off the bottom of the 3rd with a ringing line double into the left-field corner, and was moved to third on a nicely-placed sacrifice bunt by Marshall. Alfonso Soriano walked, and then Ryan Theriot plated the second Cubs run on a 4-3 high chopper GO. (Soriano advanced to second base on the RBI GO, but was left stranded there when Derrek Lee struck out)
Luis Vizcaino entered the game in the 5th, and did not pitch well (0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 ER .3 BB, 0 K, 31 pitches - only 15 strikes, 0/2 GO/FO). He seemed to be visibly pissed with home plate umpire Brian Gorman early in the inning (it did look like he was getting squeezed a bit) as he walked Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia with one out. But Vizcaino got rookie SS Elvis Andrus (who would make two outstanding leaping catches in the field later in the game) on an infield pop up for the second out and looked like he might be able to get out of the inning, but then he walked PH Andruw Jones on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. After a visit to the mound by Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild, Ian Kinslser lined Vizcaino's very next pitch (#31 for the inning) to CF, driving in two runs and tying the game at two. Manager Lou Piniella then summoned veteran LHRP Mike Stanton from the bullpen to face LH David Murphy, and Murphy sliced a 2-2 pitch to the warning track in LF, where Alfonso Soriano made a nice running catch to end the inning. Stanton got the out, but he definitely did not fool Murphy.
The game remained tied 2-2 through the 7th, as Jose Ascanio and Neal Cotts each struck out the side in their one inning of work.
Ascanio was just plain filthy, striking out Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and Marlon Byrd on 11 pitches (he threw only one ball). Ascanio had to be throwing in the mid-90's, and the bottom was dropping out of his hard-slider.
Cotts was almost just as good (14 pitches - 10 strikes), striking out Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and PH Justin Smoak, athough he did surrender a harmless Elvis Andrus two-out bloop single along the way. Cotts had outstanding velocity today.
I think Ascanio really opened some eyes today, and I suspect Cotts has probably cemented his #1 bullpen lefty gig (although there isn't really much competition for the job, unless you count Marshall as a possible reliever),
But while Ascanio and Cotts were striking out the world, the Cubs were not able to do anything offensively against veteran RHP Jason Jennings and fireballing rookie LHP Derek Holland.
Aramis Ramirez doubled with one out in 4th but was left stranded, Koyie Hill walked to lead-off the 5th but was doubled off first-base on a Alfonso Sorianio line drive, and Ryan Theriot walked leading off the 6th and stole second with one out, but he was also left stranded when Derrek Lee flied out to RF, Milton Bradley lined out to SS Andrus (one of the rookie's two outstanding defensive stops) and Luis Rivas popped up.
Veteran RHP Chad Fox entered the game in the 8th, and he was not sharp (27 pitches - 14 strikes). He walked two (Omar Vizquel and Julio Borbon), allowed a stolen base and threw a wild pitch, and gave up two deep fly outs, before surrendering a two-out RBI single to Marlon Byrd (immediately after a visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild) that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
But Kevin Hart was even worse.
Hart came into the game in the top of the 9th, with the Cubs trailing just 3-2. He gave up a first-pitch ground single to RF to Adam Melhuse, and then walked Elvis Andrus on four pitches. Pitcher Holland was left in the game to try and move the runners up with a bunt, but he struck out on a two-strike foul bunt (and that was probably the highlight of Hart's outing). Hart walked Kinsler to load the bases, and then (following another timely visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild) grooved one to Greg Golson, who promptly deposited said baseball over the left-centerfield fence for a grand slam. Hart did get the final two outs on a 6-3 GO and a F-8, but his final line was pretty ugly (1.0 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 26 pitches - 14 strikes, 1/1 GO/FO).
The Cubs did mount one of their (recently) typical last-gasp 9th inning rallies again today, but (once again) it fell short.
Trailing 7-2, Aaron Miles blooped a one-out single to left and Welington Castillo followed with a broken-bat single to RF. Rangers Manager Ron Washington summoned RHP Casey Daigle to the mound to face PH So Taguchi, and Daigle hit Taguchi on the upper left arm on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases. Doug Deeds was next, and he hit the livin' crap out of the ball, a screaming line-drive headed toward the left-field corner. But Rangers 3B Travis Metcalf made a miraculous "look what I found!" catch for the second out (all the runners got back to their bases safely), and then Andres Blanco rolled out to end the game.
The Kansas City Royals will visit Mesa tomorrow for a Cactus League tilt with the Cubs.
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