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!