Castro the Star-lin in Cub Victory
Starlin Castro smacked an RBI double into the left-center gap to drive-in the tying run, and then scored the go-ahead tally on a Micah Hoffpauir double, as the Cubs rallied from a 6-2 deficit to edge the Los Angeles Angels 8-7 at Tempe Diablo Stadium this afternoon.
The Cubs got off to 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st against Angels (and ex-STL) starter Joel Pineiro. Mike Fontenot singled with one out, and then with two outs, Kevin Millar doubled off the left-field fence to drive-in Fontenot. Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Sorian followed with back-to-back line drive singles to LF, with 3rd base coach Mike Quade aggressively sending the baserunner home from 2nd on both hits. Millar scored eaily on the first one, but Byrd was thrown out 7-2 to end the inning.
Randy Wells got the start for the Cubs, and after an easy 10-pitch 1st inning marred only by a two-base throwing error by SS Darwin Barney, the right-hander gave up a six-spot in the 2nd. Kendry Morales crushed a HR over ther RF fence to lead-off the inning, and then with one out, Wells issued a walk to Mike Napoli and gave-up consecutive singles to Brandon Wood, Reggie Willits, and Maicer Izturis. Howie Kendrick then tripled to right-center to drive-in two runs, and after another walk, Hideki Matsui completed the scoring with an RBI single. It took Wells 30 pitches to get through the 2nd, and then he threw another 20 (and only eight strikes) in the bottom of the third, although no runs scored in that inning. After pitching very well in his first two starts, Wells really laid an egg today.
For the day, Wells labored through three innings (60 pitches - 33 strikes), allowing six runs on six hits and three walks (he bounced a lot of his pitches), while striking out two (4/3 GO/FO).
The Cubs got two of the runs back off Pineiro in the top of the 3rd on a towering Kevin Millar two-run HR over the LF fence on the heels of a Xavier Nady double into the LF corner, and then Mike Fontenot narrowed the deficit to just one run when he smashed a solo HR over the RF fence off RHP Anthony Ortega with one out in the 5th. With Jeff Baker in a slump all Spring and with Fontenot playing well both offensively and defensively, it looks like Fontenot is winning the 2B job (Cubs Manager Lou Piniella doesn't want to platoon at 2B).
And Kevin Millar has probably played well enough to win a job, if there is one open for him. I just don't think there is such an opening at this time. Perhaps he'll ask for his release at the end of Spring Training and try his luck someplace else.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol pitched the 4th and allowed no runs (2/0 GO/FO, 23 pitches - 13 strikes), although he did issue a lead-off walk to Kendrick before striking out Torii Hunter and getting a couple of 4-3 ground-outs.
LHRP John Grabow worked the 5th, allowing a lead-off double to Mike Rivera and a walk to Mike Napoli. However, Geovany Soto cut-down PR Jeremy Moore trying to steal third on ball four to Napoli, and then Grabow got a couple of fly outs to close the inning. He may not have a allowed any runs, but Grabow did not look good today, as he labored through his one inning (20 pitches - only eight strikes).
RHP Andrew Cashner (the Cubs 2008 #1 draft pick out of TCU) threw two innings today (the 6th and the 7th), allowing two hits and two walks but no runs, thanks to three timely strikeouts. He threw a lot pitches to get through the two innings (43 pitches - 25 strikes), however.
The Cubs finally took the lead back in the top of the 7th off Angels RHP Rich Thompson, as James Adduci led off with a ground single down the RF line, followed by Castro's big RBI double to tie the score. Then with one out, Hoffpauir delivered, smoking a double into the right-center alley to score Castro with the go-ahead run.
The Cubs added an insurance run in the 8th off Angels NRI RHP Andrew Taylor, as Adduci walked with two outs, advanced to 2nd base on a wild pitch, and scored on a Starlin Castro line single.
And the Cubs needed the insurance, too, as Blake Parker and Thomas Diamond walked a tightrope (and I do mean WALKED a tightrope) to get the final six outs.
Parker struck out the first two men he faced in the bottom of the 8th, before falling apart and walking the bases loaded. After throwing 29 pitches (and only 12 strikes) to get to this point in the inning, Parker was relieved by Thomas Diamond, who proceeded to walk-in a run, making the score 8-7. But then Diamond struck out Efren Navarro to leave the bases loaded.
Diamond had more difficulties in the bottom of the 9th, as he allowed a bunt single to speedy Peter Bourjos and a walk to Freddy Sandoval with one out, but then SS Starlin Castro made a diving stop of a grounder behind second base and flipped the ball to 2B Darwin Barney for a force-out (Castro appeared to injure his leg on the play), and then inexplicably hitting with a 3-0 count, NRI OF Michael Ryan popped out to James Adduci in RF for the final out of the game, preserving the Cubs 8-7 victory. Diamond threw 1.1 IP (26 pitches - only 13 strikes) to get the save.
The Cubs travel to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson tomorrow for a Cactus League game with the Colorado Rockies. Carlos Zambrano is the scheduled starter for the Cubs.
BTW, prior to today's game in Tempe, Carlos Zambano and two buddies bicycled down to Fitch Park from HoHoKam Park just to hang-out with the Cubs minor leaguers (that's right, they just rode their bikes down Center Street). Nobody is more friendly and down-to-earth than Big "Z." He knows the names of the ground crew at Fitch, and he never fails to remember what it was like when he was a 17-year old in the U. S. for the first time. Same goes for Angel Guzman (who sometimes cooks for the minor leaguers). Not many people know just how wonderful these guys really are.