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).