Byrd-Scales Tag Team Too Much for Friars
Marlon Byrd doubled twice, walked once, and scored three runs, and Bobby Scales walked with the bases loaded to drive-in one run and cracked a two-run HR to knock-in two more, leading the Cubs to a 9-4 victory over the San Diego Padres in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in warm and sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Battling for the 5th starter job, Andrew Cashner got the start for the Cubs today (2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 45 pitches - 23 strikes, 3/2 GO/FO), and he had all kinda trouble finding the strike zone in his first inning of work (24 pitches - only nine strikes). The Padres scored just one run off of him in the 1st, but he allowed four baserunners (a ground-rule double sliced down the LF line by Max Venable to lead-off the game, a Brad Hawpe two-out RBI single, and and two walks) before escaping the jam with no further damage. Cashner settled down in the 2nd inning (21 pitches - 14 strikes), allowing just a one-out excuse-me check-swing opposite-field single by rival pitcher Wade LeBlanc. Cashner tends to throw more pitches-per-inning than your average pitcher, and if he can't be more efficient and throw more strikes, the high per-inning pitch count could jeopardize his future as a starting pitcher. But if he does not claim a job in the starting rotation, he should have a slot waiting for him in the bullpen, where he can hit 100 MPH with his fastball when he knows he is going to throw only one inning.
The Cubs answered with one of their own in the bottom of the 1st against Padres stater Wade LeBlanc. Marlon Byrd sliced a two-out double into the RF corner, and then scored on an Aramis Ramirez "seeing-eye" ground single between 3rd and short.
Randy Wells relieved Cashner to start the 3rd, and the Padres took the lead when Chase Headley doubled into the LF corner, stole 3rd base, and scored an unearned run when the throw from catcher Koyie Hill ticked-off Aramis Ramirez's glove for an E-5. Wells ended up throwing three innings (46 pitches - 31 strikes, 5/1 GO/FO), and looked good.
Meanwhile, the Cubs came back to score three in the 3rd, two in the 4th, and one in the 6th, to take a 7-2 lead.
Kosuke Fukudome led off the 3rd with a ground ball single to center, but was picked-off 1st (nifty move by LeBlanc) when he left early on what was apparently going to be a hit & run. Starlin Castro followed the pick-off with a line-drive single to center, and advanced to 3rd on a Marlon Byrd double into the LF corner (Byrd's second double of the day). Aramis Ramirez walked to load the bases, and after Carlos Pena was called out on strikes, Alfonso Soriano picked up his new teammate, ripping a two-run single to score Castro and Byrd. Jeff Baker then followed the Sori 2-RBI with a line-drive RBI single of his own to score Ramirez with the Cubs third run of the inning, sending LeBlanc to the showers.
The Cubs scored twice in the 4th, as Padres reliever Simon Castro had control issues. With one out, Fukudome singled, stole second, advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by SD catcher Hundley, and then scored on a WP. Then with two outs, Byrd walked, Ramirez was hit by a pitch, and Pena walked to load the bases. Alfonso Soriano then hit what should have been an inning-ending bounce-out to 3rd, but Headley bobbled the ball for an E-5, as Byrd scored an unearned run.
The Cubs scored a run in the bottom of the 6th with no hits, as SD RHRP Aaron Pareda could not find the strike zone. Augie Ojeda, Brad Snyder, and Josh Vitters walked to load the bases (with Vitters showing excellent patience, taking close pitches for balls on both the 2-2 pitch and the 3-2 pitch). But Bryan Lahair popped out to short left (Ojeda wisely held 3rd) and Lou Montanez popped-up weakly in the infield, leaving it all up to Bobby Scales, who worked the bases-loaded walk to perfection.
Jay Jackson pitched the 6th and 7th for the Cubs, and after logging a shutout 6th despite struggling with his control (22 pitches - only 11 strikes), he got a lot of his pitches up in the strike zone in the 7th, allowing two solo home runs (one to Aaron Cunningham and the other to Mike Baxter) and two long fly outs, as the Padres cut the Cub lead to 7-4.
But Scales gave the Cubs some breathing room in the bottom of the 8th, lofting a one-out opposite-field two run HR off 6'6 RHP Brad Brach that just barely cleared the LF fence, plating Bryan Lahair, who had led-off the inning with a ringing double into the RF corner.
Scott Maine had an easy 1-2-3 8th and Robert Coello threw a shutout 9th (allowing one walk) to complete the Cub victory.
Today's crowd was not a complete sell-out (although the lawn seating did sell-out 30 minutes before the start of the game), but at least attendance was more robust (10,445) than was the case at HoHoKam earlier in the week (6,229 on Opening Day last Sunday, 5,405 on Monday, and 6,892 on Thursday).
The Cubs will divide into split squads tomorrow, playing one game against the Dodgers at HoHoKam, and another versus the Reds in Goodyear.