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.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.