Cub Bats Go Silent at Talking Stick
Five Colorado pitchers combined to throw a five-hit shutout, and Jordan Pacheco crushed a pinch-hit three-run home run, leading a Rockies split squad to a 4-0 whitewashing of the Cubs in afternoon Cactus League action at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Resort on Salt River Maricopa-Pima Indian Community land located east of Scottsdale today.
The Cubs got their lead-off hitter on base in four separate innings, but could not get the big hit when they needed it.
Geovany Soto reached on a ground rule (fan interference) double leading off the top of the second, but failed to advance to third on a ground-out bouncer over the pitcher's head that would have allowed him to score on another ground out later in the inning.
Starlin Castro singled to lead-off the 4th, but was left stranded at 1st base when the next three Cubs hitters went down in order. (And Castro was totally perplexed by Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa's delivery, to the extent that he kept returning to 1st base every time De La Rosa threw the ball home).
Facing RHP Clay Mortensen, Kosuke Fukudome walked to lead-off the top of the 5th, and then Blake DeWitt followed with a line-drive single to right-center that sent Kosuke scampering to 3rd. But Scott Moore and PH Max Ramirez both struck out swinging (although M. Ramirez launched a 400-ft foul ball that drifted just outside the LF foul pole), and Fernando Perez grounded out sharply to 3rd (nice diving stop & throw by Rockies 3B Thomas Field, who robbed Perez of an RBI).
And finally Jim Adduci led off the 8th with a pinch-hit single up through the box (deflected by the pitcher), but Reed Johnson popped out, Matt Camp struck out, and Lou Montanez popped out to end the inning.
Bobby Scales also singled with two outs in the 7th.
And that was the extent of the Cubs offense.
Carlos Zambrano was the Cubs starting pitcher today, and he labored through his three innings. Although he worked fast and didn't walk anybody, he did throw 61 pitches (41 for strikes), including a 25-pitch 1st inning. He allowed one run (earned) on five hits (all singles), but one of the hits was a pop-up to LF that Tyler Colvin misplayed into a single. (Colvin initially broke back, then tried to recover, spinning his wheels as he tried to go forward, as the ball dropped safely in front of him). Colvin has struggled with his outfield defense throughout Spring Training.
While Zambrano did not allow any extra base hits and none of the singles he surrendered were hit particulary hard, he only had one strikeout (he couldn't put hitters away once he got two strikes, as the Rockies hitters kept fouling balls off) and he had trouble keeping the ball down, the second time in a row this has happened. It almost looks like he is either short-arming the ball (even more than usual), or maybe his back is bothering him. But he doesn't look quite right.
Sean Marshall threw a shutout 4th inning and looked good, except he essentially needed to get four outs because the Cubs infield once again could not turn a routine 6-4-3 DP. (Blake DeWitt's relay throw to 1st was off-line, and 1B Scott Moore missed the batter-runner with the tag).
Veteran RHP Braden Looper (battling for the 5th starter's job) was next, and he breezed through the 5th & 6th (16 pitches total - 12 strikes), retiring all six men he faced. But then it was as if he hit a wall when he came out to pitch his third inning (the bottom of the 7th), as he was unable to throw strikes, could not control his breaking ball, and lost some velocity on his fastball. It was this inning where (off Looper) Rockies PH Jordan Pacheco hammered his three-run jack. For the day Looper threw 35 pitches (20 strikes), but it looks like if he throws anything more than about 15-20 pitches, he's gassed.
Burly RHP Robert Coello (recently acquired from the Boston Red Sox for minor league 2B Tony Thomas) pitched the 8th inning, and once again he had absolutely nasty stuff, was almost impossible to hit (he racked up two strikeouts), and he had a lot of trouble throwing strikes (24 pitches - 14 strikes in 1.0 IP). He did throw seven straight strikes after receiving a visit to the mound from new Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins, however.
Today was my first time inside Salt River Fields (it just opened last month), and it is a magnificent faciility conveniently located between two freeway off-ramps. The main stadium is very nice (comfortable chair-seats, informative scoreboard, steeply-sloped outfield lawn seating, concession stands with grills, rest rooms located right behind the grand stand, and lots of shaded seating). The grounds are shared by the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks (both teams moved their Spring Training operation and Minor League HQ up to Maricopa County from Tucson after last season), with the Rockies practice fields, ticket office, and clubhouse located on the south end of the property, and the D'backs' fields, ticket office, and clubhouse on the north side. Each team's roomy two-story clubhouse includes a fitness center and plenty of office space and meeting rooms. The two teams share the main stadium (one team is home each day). Each side of the shared complex features ten batting cages, four full fields, and a half-field that can be used for bunting drills, baserunning instruction, and Pitchers Fielding Practice. Elevated walkways have been constructed above and next to the batting cages and back fields, providing outstanding views for the fans.
Most all of the Cub brass was at today's game and gave the facility a close inspection, probably to help gather some ideas for the new Cubs Spring Training & Minor League complex that will be constructed at Riverview Park in Mesa (at 8th Street & Dobson Road) over the next couple of years.
The floor is more valuable than the ceiling. It's the same reason we drafted Kris Bryant instead of Jon Gray.
Apparently the Yankees had the choice of either Gleyber Torres or Eloy Jimenez in the Chapman deal, and they chose Torres.
Chapman shouldn't be reserved anymore on 40 man.
Interesting split on Heyward according to ESPN. As a CF, his slash line .292/.363/.375/.738. At RF: .212/.204/.300/.604. 21/72 as a CF, 58/273 as a RF.
He's also been better when batting 2nd, but he had a nice start in the 6 hole, but has slumped ever since. He was heating up before the All Star break, but is only hitting .108 in the 2nd half.
When we played the Reds with Chapman, I always thought of it as an eight-inning game. So now other teams have eight innings to try to get a lead against the Cubs. Should be a challenge, assuming three or four Cubs ever start hitting again.
I don't really try to get to know and like these players personally. I'm rooting for laundry, for the most part. Exceptions might be when a player makes trouble in the clubhouse or in the dugout. (Zambrano and Bradley come to mind. Also Papelbon.) But I don't think Chapman is one of those jerks.
Unfortunately, a pretty good summary. It looks like next year Heyward will be getting yet another batting stance adjustment.
The recent good news has been Baez. I'm afraid about the next league adjustment on him, though, which is probably right around the corner.
Bryant I don't worry about too much. Just not seeing the ball well right now. He'll turn it around. Russell's been good with men in scoring position all year and he's 22ish. He'll be fine but next year is likely to be his breakout year.
If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.
Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."
This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.
I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.
They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.
However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.
I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
- They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
- Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.
new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup
Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.
.500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.
...i hate espn.
nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.
oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.
I'm liking this rookie Nathan.
Richard DFA'd. Meh...