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.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.
Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?
He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.
My guess? Toronto.
PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.
While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.