Body Snatchers Doom Cubs
Torii Hunter crushed a lead-off first-pitch home run to ignite a seven-run 4th inning, propelling the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa, as the Cubs set an all-time single-season Cactus League attendance record. (It probably helped that the 2009 Cactus League season was extended by a week and a few extra home games to accomodate the WBC).
Sean Marshall started for the Cubs, and breezed through the first three innings, allowing one run on two hits, a walk, and a wild pitch, while striking out five (fanning four out of five batters at one point) The run scored as the result of a Marshall wild pitch on strike three to Angels lead-off hitter Chone Figgins in the top of the 1st, who then advanced around the diamond on a walk and two ground outs.
But when Marshall took the mound to start the 4th, it was as if he was suddenly a completely different pitcher. After allowing just one run on 43 pitches (30 strikes) through three innings and looking sharp in the process, Marshall threw 28 pitches (only 14 strikes) while allowing seven runs on six hits (including two doubles and a home run) and a walk (pitcher Nick Adenhart on five pitches) in the inning, while retiring only one batter.
Torii Hunter crushed the first pitch of the inning for a long home run, the ball sailing over the LF fence to the base of the scoreboard. Kendry Morales then doubled off the LF fence (a near HR), and Maicer Izturis grounded a single to right, advancing Morales to 3rd. Jeff Mathis then doubled into the LF corner to score Morales with the second run of the inning, sending Izuris to 3rd.
With pitcher Nick Adenhart due up, Marshall had a chance to stem the tide and perhaps turn the inning around, but the Cub lefty walked Adenhart on five pitches to load the bases, thus proving to all but the most skeptical faces in the crowd that he must have been possessed by an alien life-form between the 3rd and 4th innings, probably a vegetable pod.
Chone Figgins was the next hitter, and he slapped a two-run RBI single to center to score Morales and Izturis, as Adenhart advanced to 2nd. With David Patton hurriedly getting ready in the bullpen, Marshall finally got an out (Howie Kendrick hit into a FC), but Bobby Abreu sliced a single to left to score Adenhart and move Kendrick up a base.
The Abreu RBI single was Pitch #28 in the inning, and so Marshall was yanked from the game, as Rule 5 RHP David Patton took the mound. Patton is competing for one of the two open jobs in the bullpen, and cannot afford to fail when given an opportunity to show that he has what it takes to "put out a fire."
Patton came into the game firing strikes (as per usual), but unfortunately the first two hitters he faced (Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter) weren't too impressed, driving consecutive RBI singles to the outfield, as both inherited runners scored (both runs were charged to Marshall).
Patton then retired the next five men he faced (including three of the five on strikeouts), but the damage was done. For the day, Patton worked 1.2 IP (22 pitches - 15 strikes), allowing no runs of his own, but allowing the two inherited runners to score,
The Cubs got on the board in the bottom of the 4th versus Angels starter Nick Adenhart (who went 6.2 IP today, BTW), when Derrek Lee smacked a one-out double to left-center (and showed no apparent ill effects from the quad problem that's been bothering him for three weeks) and scored on a two-out RBI single hammered through the box by Aramis Ramirez. Mike Fontenot followed with an almost identical single chopped over second base, and Geovany Soto worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases for Ryan Theriot. But The Riot rolled out weakly to 1st base (3-U) to terminate the inning with just one run scored and the Cubs down 8-1.
The Cubs scored another run in the bottom of the 5th, when Kosuke Fukudome hammered a two-out triple into the right-centerfield alley, and scored on another double by D-Lee, this one roped into the LF corner. (Lee smoked three hard-hit line drives in three ABs today, resulting in two doubles and a single).
The Cubs finished their scoring in the bottom of the 8th against Angels reliever Scott Shields, as PH Aaron Miles lined a double down the RF line, and scored on a Micah Hoffpauir towering HR that landed beyond the upper (visitor's) bullpen beyond the RF fence.
Aaron Heilman, Luis Vizcaino, Chad Fox, and Kevin Gregg followed Patton to the hill, each throwing one inning of shutout ball in innings 6-7-8-9.
Heilman gave up a harmless one-out single in his inning, throwing 18 pitches (11 strikes) with a 1/2 GO/FO, and Vizcaino labored through a lengthy top of the 7th, loading the bases on a double and two walks, but getting out the jam with two clutch strikeouts and a 6-3 GO. Vizcaino took a lot of time between pitches once he had a baserunner, and ultimately needed 33 pitches to get out of the inning (he threw 15 balls and 18 strikes in the inning).
Chad Fox worked the 8th, and allowed a walk (he threw 22 pitches, including nine balls and 13 strikes), and he also gave up several "loud" outs and line drive fouls, but he did survive with no real damage.
And then Kevin Gregg worked an impressive 1-2-3 9th, striking out the side on 16 pitches.
The Cubs generally looked listless today, not only at the plate and on the mound, but also on the bases. Kosuke Fukudome got picked off 1st base by Angels catcher Jeff Mathis after rapping a single to left-center with one out in the bottom of the 1st inning (Kosuke appeared to beat the throw, but it looked like he tripped over the bag and fell off the base), and Ryan Theuiot was picked off 1st base (and he was out by a mile, too) by pitcher Nick Adenhart when he tried to get an extended secondary lead with Sean Marshall at bat in a bunt situation with no outs in the bottom of the 3rd.
The Cubs play the Oakland A's tomorrow at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.