Marshall Perfecto & Three Cub Bombs Drop A's at the Ho
Sean Marshall,threw three perfect innings and Alfonso Soriano, Jake Fox, and Aramis Ramirez slammed home runs, helping the Cubs dump the Oakland A's 6-4 under overcast skies and 80-degree temperatures and in front of 6.500 fans at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
In a battle for the #5 starting job, Sean Marshall got the start for the Cubs and was simply marvelous, retiring all nine men he faced in three consecutive 1-2-3 innings.
Unlike his last time out, when he kept bpuncing his curve while leaving everything else up in the strike zone, Marshall was right on target today, dropping his curve in for strikes, and coaxing the A's into five ground ball outs through the first two innngs while facing the likes of Jack Cust, Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Bobby Crosby, and Kurt Suzuki.
Marshall might have begun to tire just a little bit in the top of the third when the A's put a couple of balls into the air, but then the lefty finished off his outing by striking out pinch-htter Jeff Baisley.
For the day, Marshall threw a total of 35 pitches (24 for strikes), with a 5/3 GO/FO, and no balls were hit hard.
Kevin Gregg worked an EXTREMELY quick 4th inning, retiring the side on five pitches (all strikes, with four of the balls put into play, and all four of those on the ground)..I think I might have blinked twice (three times max) during that inning.
Meanwhile, the Cubs offense was playing long-ball with the A's pitchers, putting up six runs thanks to a solo HR over the RF fence and into the Cubs bullpen by Alfonso Soriano off A's starter (and ex-Cub) Sean Gallagher leading off the bottom of the 1st, a two-run blast also hit over the RF fence and into the Cubs bullpen by Jake Fox off reliever Kevin Cameron in the bottom of the 3rd, and a three run moon-bomb by Aramis Ramirez off ex-Cubs LHRP prospect Jerry Blevins that landed just in front of the scoreboard well beyond the LF fence following walks to PH So Taguchi and Ryan Theriot in the bottom of the 4th.
With the Cubs up 6-0, veteran lefty reliever Mike Stanton pitched the 5th, and he did not have a good outing (28 pitches - 15 strikes). He gave up three hits and a walk, and most everything was hit hard off him. He could not even retire lefty-swinging Eric Patterson. I realize Stanton hasn't pitched for a couple of years, and I'm fairly sure the Cubs will give him a reasonable chance to try and get himself into some kind of groove, but so far he looks washed-up to me.
Making his 2009 Cactus League debut (he was late to camp, supposedly due to "visa problems"), RHP Luis Vizcaino (acquired from Colorado for Jason Marquis during the off-season) worked the 6th, and he looked very good (a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Holliday-Giambi-Bowen, 1/1 GO/FO, one K, on only 12 pitches). I have to admit I was half-expecting to see a broken-down sore-armed guy slinging the ball up to the plate, but his fastball actually had some zip on it, and his breaking ball looked good, too.
2008 #1 draft pick RHP Andrew Cashner (he of the 99 MPH fastball and high 80's slider) made his Spring Training game debut in the 7th. As one would expect, he had command probblems (24 pitches - only 12 strikes), and along the way he allowed two runs on three hits, a walk, and a wild pitch (and got no punch-outs), before leaving the game with runners on 1st and 2nd and only one out in the inning.
Neal Cotts relieved Cashner, and immediately induced an infield pop up that Jake Fox (naturally) dropped. But since there were runners on 1st & 2nd with only one out, it was an infield fly rule situation, so the batter was out. Except the runners took off running as soon as Fox dropped the ball, and so Fox (far more alert than he is competent defensively) gunned the ball to a waiting Luis Rivas at 3rd base. Except Rivas stepped on the bag instead of tagging the runner. So the runner was safe. Except the runner thought he must be out, so he walked away. And thus Rivas had a chance to redeem himself and tag the runner. But Rivas didn't do that, instead throwing the ball back to Fox (who was wildly waving his arms "NO!!!" and pointing at to the base runner headed to the dugout), But alas it was too late, and the A;s 3rd base coach was able to communicate to the runner to get his ass back to 3rd. Which he did. So the inning continued with the tying runs at 2nd & 3rd. . Cotts got the next hitter, too (GO), but it shouldn't have gotten that far.
RHP (and ex-catcher) Randy Wells (September 2008 stress fracture in his pitching arm) made his 2009 Cactus League game debut in the 8th, and had an easy seven-pitch 1-2-3 inning (two ground outs and a pop up).
Going for the save, RHP Esmailin Caridad worked the 9th, and he labored (18 pitches - only eight strikes). Caridad put the tying runs on base on a one-out walk and a double, but then he seemed to bear down, retiring the final two hitters on a ground out and a pop up.
I thought Soriano had some really nice swings today, His home run (off Gallagher) was on a high outside fastball, where he stood on his tip toes and just lined the ball over the RF fence. (He had another swing exactly like that yesterday, too, but the ball was caught on the warning track in RF). In his second AB today, Sori tomahawked a high fastball to LF that almost took Matt Holliday's glove off. And then in his 3rd AB, he hit another rope to RF that was caught.
It was also nice to see Eric Patterson again, doing that voodoo that you do so well... easy ground ball just to the right of first-baseman Giambi, Patterson ranges to his left and makes a stop about 15 feet behind and slightly to the left of the 1st base bag, he has all the time in the world, and so he double clutches, and throws the ball away. Classic E-Pat.
And Jake Fox needs to get traded to an American League team where can DH. He has outstanding power, but he he is dangerous to himself (and others) no matter what position he plays in the field.