Spoiler Alert --- Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!
I know many of you probably watched today's game on WGN, but for those of you who didn't, or for those of you who did but weren't paying attention....
Reed Johnson slugged a two-run PH home run in the bottom of th 4th to break a 2-2 tie, and the Cubs defeated the Padres 5-3 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park before a Cactus League record crowd of 13,262 in hot & sunny Mesa.
Iowa Cubs RHP Mitch Atkins got the start today, and went two innings. Pitching under no presssure (Atkins was optioned to AAA earlier this week), the young right-hander labored through two innings of work (52 pitches - 30 strikes), allowing two unearned runs.
Atkins should have been out of the 1st inning 1-2-3, but a two-out bobble by second-baseman Mike Fontenot allowed Chase Headley (that's Headley, not Hedy) to reach base, and then Mongo (Kyle Blanks) launched a two-run HR over the LF fence. Atkins walked the next two batters after the long ball, but escaped further damage, although he did need 36 pitches (while throwing only half for strikes) to complete the inning.
Atkins had an easier second frame (16 pitches - 12 strikes), finishing strong with two strikeouts (Chris Burke called & David Eckstein swinging).
The Cubs scored a run in the bottom of the 1st off Padres starter RHP Kevin Correia (ex-SF). Alfonso Soriano led-off with a single, but was thrown out (easily) trying steal (Soriano got a bad jump off 1st, and he seemed to be favoring one leg while he was running). Ryan Theriot drew a one-out walk, and advanced to 2nd on a ground out. Milton Bradley then lined a two-out single to CF to score The Riot, and took second on an E-8 bobble by Padres CF Emil Brown. Aramis Ramirez followed that with an infield single to short, but Bradley ran through 3rd base coach Mike Quade's "stop" sign and was caught drop-dead cold just a few feet past 3rd base (made a third out at third base again) as SS Everth Cabrera threw behind Bradley. (And this was not the first brain cramp by Bradley on the bases this Spring, either). Like I've said before, this is going to be a long year...
This is the point in Spring Training when Cubs Manager Lou Piniella likes to have his relievers try to throw more than one inning in a game at least one time, so Carlos Marmol relieved Atkins and worked the third and fourth innings (six up, six down - 24 pitches - 4/1 GO/FO). Marmol only threw 13 strikes, but nobody hit the ball hard off him in either inning.
The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the 3rd when Soriano singled (again), and advanced to 3rd on a beautiful hit & run single by Theriot, who punched the ball right to the spot just vacated by 2nd baseman David Eckstein (who broke to 2nd base to cover). Micah Hoffpauir then roped an L-7 SF (Hoffpauir's MLB-leading 18th Spring Training RBI) that was hit so hard it almost went over Headley's head(ley) to score Soriano.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 4th, when, with two outs, Sam Fuld walked and PH Reed Johnson (batting for Marmol) followed with what would prove to be the game-winning HR.
Kevin Gregg worked the 5th inning and into the 6th (1.1 IP, 28 pitches total), allowing just a two-out single in the 5th. Esteban German mishandled a grounder and then made a bad throw to 1st base for an error (I guess you could call it either a fielding error or a throwing error--take your pick) to start the 6th, but Gregg struck out the next batter, Emil Brown. Piniella then brought in lefty reliever Jason Waddell to face lefty-swinging Chris Snelling, and the Australian ripped a line-drive that was certainly headed for the RF corner. But somehow, someway,1st baseman Micah Hoffpauir caught the ball with a leaping stab, doubling off Kyle Blanks at 1st base forr an unassisted inning-ending DP (and next time you come by, bring my stomach!).
Waddell came back out for the top of the 7th, but got yanked after walking lead-off hitter Nick Hundley on five pitches. Angel Guzman was then brought into the game, and had his best outing of 2009, retiring all six men he faced (22 pitches- 15 strikes), on three easy ground balls and three strikeouts (Brett Dowdy, Matt Antonelli, and Chase Headley). When Gooz trusts his stuff and throws strikes, he gets outs. .
The Cubs scored their final run in the bottom of the 7th, when Theriot led off with a single, and then PR Andres Blanco advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, before scoring on a two-out RBI single chopped through the infield by Esteban German.
Kevin Hart had struck out nine of the last 11 men he had faced coming into today's game, but struggled with his command in the 9th while trying to get the save. Hart hit the first two batters he faced (Drew Macias and Chad Huffman) to bring the tying run to the plate, but the right-hander recovered to get a 4-6-3 DP (thanks to a strong relay throw to first by DP middleman Andres Blanco). Everth Cabrera then grounded a triple into the RF corner to drive-in Macias from third, but Hart got Dowdy for the final out of the game on a pop-up to short RF that was caught by So Taguchi while battling the afternoon sun.
Four Cubs had two hits each today, including Ryan Theriot (who also reached base a third time with a walk), Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and Aramis Ramirez, and eagle-eye Sam Fuld walked twice while playing a stellar CF.
The Cubs travel out to Camelback Ranch tomorrow for a Cactus League game with the cross-town rival White Sox (and with the White Sox now based on the west side of Phoenix, the Cubs and the Sox are actually "cross-town" rivals out here, too!)