Jake Fox Three-Run Blast Powers Cubs to Victory
Jake Fox slammed a three-run homer and Joey Gathright had three hits, a walk, an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base (and made a nice running catch in right-centerfield as well), as the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, Arizona this afternoon, before another smallish crowd (6,711).
Sean Marshall got the start and went two innings (30 pitches - 20 strikes - 1/3 GO/FO), allowing one run on four hits. Marshall kept bouncing his curve and left a few of his other pitches too high in the strike zone, but overall it wasn't a bad outing.
The Brewers scored a run in the top of the 1st when Chris Duffy tripled to CF and then J. J. Hardy followed with a double to left-center. The Brewers missed scoring another run in the inning, however, when Hardy was cut down 7-6-2 (with a perfect relay throw by SS Darwin Barney to catcher Paul Bako) after LF Micah Hoffpauir lost a fly ball in the sun.
Hoffpauir's misplay in LF in the 1st inning wasn't his only gaffe of the day, either, as he allowed a pop up to drop in front of him in the 5th, eventually resulting in a run during Carlos Marmol's one ining of work.
While Hoffpauir is a Gold Glove caliber defender at 1B (he was voted the top defensive first-baseman in the PCL by rival managers last season), he just doesn't display any defensive acumen in the outfield. But the problem is, Manager Lou Piniella probably feels like Hoffpauir will need to be able to passably play a corner OF spot at least occasionally if he is to secure a spot on the 25-man roster. Today was not a good day for Hoffpauir in that respect.
The Cubs tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the 2nd off Seth McClung, when Darwin Barney singled, advanced to second when PH Steve Clevenger drew a walk, and and scored as Joey Gathright rolled a single just out of J. J. Hardy's reach into LF.
The Cubs took the lead for good in the bottom of the 3rd, when Jake Fox blasted his three-run dinger over the left-field fence following back-to-back walks to Richie Robnett and Micah Hoffpauir. (The Cubs drew 11 walks today, and went deep into the count in a number of ABs).
The Cubs scored two more runs in the 6th, as Welington Castillo walked and Joey Gathright reached on an infield hit, followed by an RBI single by Aaron Miles )who hit two rockets directly at defenders in his first two at bats), and a sac fly to short CF by Robnett, where Gathright showed his blazing speed by outracing the throw to the plate.
The Cubs scored their final run in the bottom of the 7th, when the left-side of the Brewers infield (Mike Lamb and Alcides Escobar) took turns throwing the ball away.
The Cubs pitchers had mixed results today.
Chad Gaudin followed Marshall to the mound,working two innings (38 pitches - 22 strikes - 4/1 GO/FO), during which he allowed four hits (one of which was a gargantuan HR hit completely out of the ballpark by Mike Cameron) and a walk, while striking out one. He was saved from a much worse line thanks to two timely inning-ending double plays, one 4-6-3 and the other 6-4-3, the latter of which probably allowing Gaudin to complete his second inning without having to be relieved (his pitch count was getting close to 40).
Carlos Marmol worked the 5th and he did throw strikes (13 pitches - 10 strikes), but he also allowed a run (technically "earned"), thanks to a HBP and Hoffpauir's misplay in LF,
Veteran LHP Mike Stanton, who is battling for a job in the bullpen, had a perfect opportunity to show Manager Lou Piniella what he could do, facing six left-handed hitters and just one right-handed hitter. The one right-hander (Mike Rivera) slugged a HR, and against the lefty swingers, Stanton struck out two (both swinging), while also allowing a single, a walk, and a hard-hit line drive out to 1st base. Overall, not all bad against the lefty batters, but not all good, either. A sort of mixed-bag for Stanton.
Kevin Hart (15 pitches - only seven strikes - allowing a single while also hitting a batter) , Chad Fox (just eight pitches - six strikes - three up, three down, a GO, a FO, and a K-swinging), and Angel Guzman (ten pitches - seven strikes, allowing a near-HR ground rule double and two loud fly outs, before striking out Scott Thorman swinging to end the game) each threw one shutout inning to close the game out. Chad Fox was especially impressive in his one inning.
The Cubs are now 2-0 in Cactus League play, and will travel out to Surprise tomorrow to play the Texas Rangers.
In what was probably the last start for RHSP Jeremy Null at EXST
Intrasquad game this morning on Field #5 at Riverview Baseball Complex
4.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 2 WP, 1 GIDP, 5/4 GO/AO, 75 pitches (50 strikes)
Next stop is likely either South Bend or Myrtle Beach (TBD)
There does seem to be something funky about closers pitching in non-save situations -- they never seem to be as effective. But, to your point, there could not have been a save situation in that game, so why not use your best reliever?
Heyward getting the night off.
Grand Slammin' Sczcur in RF - La Stella batting 2nd
Your thought: don't pitch Rondon at all, since a save can't happen in extra innings at home.
Maddon's thought: might as well pitch him now, because there's no later.
It looked like the baserunner might have screened Russell some though it's still a play he should have made.
I wasn't thrilled with the use of Rondon in that situation. In save situations opponents have a 77 OPS. In non-save situations it's a 116 OPS. We had other relievers for that spot we could have used.
I'm not sure if it's his normal swing but it's obvious he can hit and he's always hit for power just not HRs so if it is his normal swing there's something else going on.
This article from spring training said he was trying to pull the ball a lot more:
Oh, thanks. I guess I should actually look at the schedule. Yay, 3-game road trip!
Good call, indeed. This ought to be a good series.
Sorry to nit-pick -- but the games against the Nats this week are at home.
Can't remember a worse weather-start to a season. Yuck.
Basically Russell booted a slam dunk DP grounder letting a run score. But he drove in the tying run in 9th. Just not their day, Rondon notwithstanding.
Didn't see the game, but it sounded like the Cubs gave away 2 runs with poor fielding. Bummer.
Well, it's been a fun diet of Reds, Brewers and Braves, but now the Cubs have to play real teams in May (Pirates, Nationals, SF, Cards and Dodgers) -- hope we are all still smiling when we wake up on Memorial Day.
He does seem out of synch. His body seems to start forward, then his arms sort of try to catch up -- if that's his normal swing, he will never hit for power. It's an all-arms slasher swing, but the timing seems off.
He is currently slugging .256 -- I realize the weather has been bad, but that's epically bad. Currently 92nd out of 94 qualified NL batters. Yikes.
Weird home stand -- 3-1, with 2 rainouts, vs. two teams that will lose 100 games. Feels oddly disappointing.
Miserable baseball weather all week -- hopefully better weather will get the bats going. Not just walking, but actually hitting.
That strike call on LaSterlla was terrible
I was hearing some talk that John Mallee is trying to change Heyward's swing. Wonder if that is lending itself to the slow start.
at least it wasn't a "nobody showed up" stomping.
anytime you wanna jumpstart your season would be nice, heyward.