Cubs Flush Royals at HoHoKam
Alfonso Soriano belted a two-run home run, Mike Fontenot drove in two runs with a homer and a double, So Taguchi drove in three runs with a bases-loaded triple, Joey Gathright scored three runs and drove in one, and Derrek Lee had an RBI double, as the Cubs drubbed the Kansas City Royals 9-1 in afternoon Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon, before 8,987 fans under overcast skies and in mid-60's temperatures
The Cubs got off to a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st off Royals starter Brian Bannister, as Mike Fontenot walked with one out and scored on a Derrek Lee RBI double roped to left-center.
The Cubs scored three more in the bottom of the 2nd. Micah Hoffpauir pulled a line single to right, was sacrificed to 2nd base by Aaron Miles on a pretty 1-3 SH, advanced to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on an RBI single to center by Joey Gathright. With Royals pitcher Bannister somewhat distracted by Gathright breaking off 1st, Alfonso Soriano took the opportunity to drive a home run far over the LF fence to the base of the scoreboard, giving the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
After the Royals scored in the 3rd, the Cubs put another run on the board in the bottom of the 4th, Gathright reached base on a 4-6 FC following a lead-off single by Miles, and advanced to second when new Royals pitcher Jamey Wright overthrew 1st base on a pick-off attempt. Gathright then came around to score on a two-out opposite-field near-HR double sliced off the left-centerfield wall by Fontenot.
Fontenot hit a solo HR over the rightfield fence leading off the bottom of the 7th to put the Cubs up 6-1, and then the Cubs really broke the game open in the bottom of the 8th, scoring their final three runs off ex-Cub Kyle Farnsworth.
With one out, Aaron Miles and Paul Bako blooped singles to the outfield, and Gathright drew a walk. So Taguchi then smoked a liner to the wall in left-center, driving in all three runners, and giving the Cubs a 9-1 lead.
In addition to the various scoring scenarios, Micah Hoffpauir had two hits, the 2nd inning single and then a two-out opposite-field double in the bottom of the 5th that just missed going out over the left-centerfield fence. (Hoffpauir was left stranded).
While the Cubs offense was unusually productive today, the pitching was just as good.
RHP Chad Gaudin got the start, and had his best outing of the Spring. He worked two shutout innings (28 pitches - 17 strikes, 3/2 GO/FO), allowing just one harmless single, (rubbed out by a nifty 4-6-3 DP turn), with no walks and one strikeout (Willie Bloomquist)
Jeff Samardzija entered the game in the top of the 3rd, and had a solid outing. The Shark did allow a run on two singles and a wild pitch in the 3rd (when he needed to throw 23 pitches to get out of the inning), but then he settled down and got through the next two innings on just 17 pitches (combined), retiring the last seven batters he faced, and putting up a final line of 3.0 IP, 2 H,1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. and 1 WP,.40 pitches - 28 strikes, 5/2 GO/FO.
Kevin Gregg worked a 1-2-3 6th (two ground outs and a strikeout-swinging), throwing 16 pitches (nine strikes).
LHP Jason Waddell pitched the 7th and had another fine outing, racking up a couple of strikeouts (including lefty swingers Shane Costa and Mike Jacobs), while allowing just one harmless single to right-handed swinging DH Billy Butler, before retiring another lefty hitter (Alex Gordon) on an infield pop up. Waddell once again worked EXTREMELY fast, almost "quick-pitching" the KC hitters. He remains in the running for a possible bullpen job in Chicago, although he is still a "long-shot." But at least he appears to be claiming the #1 lefty bullpen job at AAA Iowa, while making a very favorable impression on Manager Lou Piniella and Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild.
Esmailin Caridad had a nine-pitch (seven strikes) 1-2-3 8th (an infield pop up and two 1-3 comebackers to the mound), and Randy Wells got through the 9th on only seven pitches in still,another 1-2-3 inning (a 4-3 GO, a 6-3 GO, and an L-7). And Caridad broke a couple of bats in his inning of work.
Defensively, Mike Fontenot made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch in short-RF in the top of the 1st inning, and Aaron Miles made a couple of nice plays, one deep in the hole at SS, and then another really nice back-handed stop & throw from behind the third base bag. (He started the game at SS, and then moved to 3B). Miles showed he has PLENTY of arm from both deep in the hole at SS and from behind the 3B bag. It would appear he is perfectly capable of being the #1 back-up at both SS and 3B, although I certainly wouldn't say he is an upgrade over Mark DeRosa as a possible long-term Plan "B" at 3B should something bad happen to Aramis Ramirez in 2009. (I still wish the Cubs hadn't traded DeRosa, especially since it turned out that trading DeRo had no connection to the Cubs acquiring Jake Peavy).
The Cubs will travel to Peoria tommorow to play the Seattle Mariners, before the club gets a rare day off on Wednesday.
Team Japan (featuring the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Kosuke Fukudome, Kenji Johjima, and Daisuke Matsuzaka) will play the Cubs at HoHoKam on Thursday, in preparation for the start of the WBC semi-finals in San Diego on Sunday. It should be interesting to see so many high-quality Japanese players together on the same team. I'm looking forward to it!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.
First time I saw Herrera was yesterday. He took like 100 pitches, fouled off a ton off Lester.
Very nice young player and perfect leadoff guy.
Obviously not Phil. But he mentioned this on Wednesday.
"Dominican Summer League (DSL) Opening Day is Saturday June 4th, so probably about 8-10 pitchers and position players presently at EXST in Mesa will be sent to the Cubs Dominican Academy (probably sometime this week) and be assigned to either DSL Cubs #1 or DSL Cubs #2."
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