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).
Apparently the Yankees had the choice of either Gleyber Torres or Eloy Jimenez in the Chapman deal, and they chose Torrers.
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...
Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.