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).
Good thing the Cubs have five left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties [edit - doesn't seem to faze Bryant!]
ben zobrist gets to ride up front tonight cause he's a good guy at sports.
cubs with a 5 run lead and a lackey shutout through 3ip \m/
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.