Cubs Roll a Seven in the One to Thump Sox
The Cubs scored seven runs in the bottom of the 1st, and cruised to a 9-4 victory over the White Sox this afternoon at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 13,327, a game that I'm sure many of you watched on WGN-TV.
The bats were hot right from the gitgo this afternoon, as the Cubs racked-up a seven spot in the 1st off White Sox starter LHP Clayton Richard, who REALLY had a bad day.
Alfonso Soriano lined a single to right to start the inning, and then Kosuke Fukudome celebrated his return to the Cubs with a line single to CF. Derrek Lee then lined a single to left to score Soriano and send Fukudome to 3rd, Milton Bradley walked to load the bases, and then Aramis Ramirez bounced into an RBI 5-4 FC. Aaron Miles grounded an RBI single to the right of second baseman Chris Getz to score D-Lee, and then Ryan Theriot walked to re-load the bases. Koyie Hill bounced a double down the LF line to plate Ramirez and Miles, and that finished Richard.
RHP D. J. Carrasco relieved Richard, and Carlos Zambrano drove in Theriot from 3rd on a 6-3 GO (K. Hill holding 2nd), and then Soriano finished the scoring with his second hit of the inning, a pop fly down the line in RF that bounced off the rock-hard field and up & over the retaining wall in foul territory for an RBI ground rule double.
After Carrasco struck out Fukdome, Lee, Bradley, and Ramirez in succession, the Cubs mounted another rally in the bottom of the 3rd. Miles and Theriot singled to start the inning, and Koyie Hill walked to load the bases. Zambrano then bounced a one-hopper to 1st baseman Josh Kroeger, who threw to 2nd to get a force-out, but Sox SS Alexei Ramirez's relay sailed past 1st base, allowing both runners to score (one RBI for "Z").
Zambrano started for the Cubs and went six innings (90 pitches - 50 strikes, 4/11 GO/FO), and had a problem in only one of the innings, that being the top of the 4th, when he threw 36 pitches (and only 18 strikes). He had hustled to beat the throw to 1st on his RBI FC in the previous half-inning (bottom of the 3rd), and he appeared to be dropping his arm when he started to work in the 4th.
Zambrano had difficulty throwing strikes throughout the inning, (he had thrown only 29 pitches through the first three innings combined), eventually allowing two runs on three hits and a walk, the key hit being a two-out bases-loaded double by Josh Fields that bounced off the warning track and over the fence for a double, after CF Fukudome appeared to lose the ball in the sun.
But "Z" righted the ship in the 5th, retiring the last six hitters without much trouble. For the day he allowed two runs (both earned) on six hits and a walk, while striking out three.
On the bubble, out of options, and competing fiercely for a spot on the 25-man roster, Angel Guzman took the mound in the 7th. He had good moments and bad moments, the worst one being a no-doubt-about-it opposite field solo home run with one out by Brian Anderson that landed in the upper (visitors) bullpen. He also allowed a broken bat single, and had to throw 25 pitches to get out of the inning. But he did strike out the last two hitters (Brent Lillibridge and Carlos Quentin), and he generally threw strikes (19 of his 25 pitches).
So based upon his outing today, Guzman did not pitch well enough to insure himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, but neither did he pitch badly enough to eliminate himself from consideration.
Luis Vizcaino threw a 1-2-3 eight-pitch 8th (K, PO, FO), Mike Stanton got the first out in the 9th (striking out LH hitter Josh Kroeger), and then Chad Fox finished up, getting the final two outs while allowing one run, thanks to two doubles to RF sandwiched around a strike out, before inducing Lillibridge to line-out sharply to Brad Snyder in RF to end the game.
The other battle in progress is for the back-up catcher gig, and both candidates saw action today. Koyie Hill got the start and played the first five innings, going 1-2 at the plate (RBI bases loaded double, a walk, and a 5-3 GO), while also allowing a passed ball. Bako played the last four innings, and went 0-1 (3-1 GO). Neither player did anything overtly stupid.
The Cubs travel to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson tomorrow, and will face the Colorado Rockies.