No Antidote for Carmona
Fausto Carmona threw six innings of two-hit shutout ball and Austin Kearns reached base three times and scored two runs, leading the Cleveland Indians to 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in warm & sunny Mesa.
Battling for a spot in the Cubs starting rotation, Jeff Samardzija got the start and worked four innings (63 pitches - 41 strikes, 4/4 GO/FO), allowing two earned runs on four hits (two doubles and two singles) and two walks, while striking out four (Mark Grudzielanek, Jhonny Peralta, Chris Gimenez, and Mike Redmond).
Samardzija looked OK (not great), but better than he has at any time previously this Spring. Jeff Baker made an outstanding leaping catch in the 3rd to prevent a double that would have made The Shark's day a lot worse, but the inning before Samardzija was the victim of some shaky Cubs defense and a mental error that led to a run.
Austin Kearns led-off the top of the 2nd with a double, and then Derrek Lee fielded a chopper and made an inadvisable throw trying to cut down Kearns at 3rd base instead of taking the easy out at 1st, putting runners at 1st & 3rd with no outs. 2nd baseman Bobby Scales then made a terrible relay throw on what should have been an easy 6-4-3 DP, and the Indians scored their first run of the day, although it was an earned run because no official errors were charged.
The Indians scored their second run of Samardzija in the third, when Anderson Hernandez led-off with a single and stole 2nd (Samardzija did a poor job of holding baserunners today). Then after Samardzija got a couple of outs (one being the spectacular Baker catch) and was on the verge of getting out of the inning, Jhonny Peralta ripped an RBI single to drive-in Hernandez from 2nd base.
John Grabow came into the game in the 5th, and could not finish the inning. He threw 25 pitches (16 strikes), allowing two unearned runs (thanks to a fielding error by third-baseman Baker that kept the inning alive, allowing the Indians to string together three hits and two runs off Grabow when the lefty should have been out of the inning).
RHP Jeff Stevens and Blake Parker were both brought up from Minor League Camp for today's game (possibly to be showcased for the Toronto Blue Jays?), and Stevens was brought into the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the 5th, getting the final out (and stranding all three inherited runners in the process) on a line-drive to shortstop. But then the Indians did score a run off Stevens in the 6th, as Brian Bixler crushed a lead-off triple, and--after Stevens got two pop-ups and (like Samardzija earlier in the game) appeared on the verge of getting out of the inning unharmed--Matt LaPorta laced an RBI single past Ryan Theriot. Stevens threw 1.1 IP (21 pitches - 15 strikes), allowing the one run on two hits.
Blake Parker was better, throwing a 1-2-3 7th (14 pitches - 9 strikes), coming back from a 3-0 count to strike out Jose Constanza for the 3rd out of inning.
Rule 5 pick Mike Parisi entered the game in the 8th, and was terrible, failing to retire a hitter and having all kinds of trouble throwing strikes (17 pitches - only five strikes). Parisi allowed a lead-off line double to Chris Gimenez, then walked Brian Bixler and Anderson Hernandez to load the bases, before uncorking a wild pitch and hitting Matt McBride with a pitch.
Even though he is a Rule 5 pick and would have to be offered back to the St. Louis Cardinals if the Cubs decide not to keep him on their 25-man roster, Parisi is not guaranteed a roster spot. Unlike David Patton--who was selected by the Cubs in the December 2008 Rule 5 Draft as more of a "long term investment"--Parisi has two full years of AAA experience (249 AAA IP 2007-08) as well as 12 MLB games under his belt, so he was drafted by the Cubs as an "MLB-ready" guy. While Parisi did have Tommy John Surgery post-2008 and missed most of the 2009 season, he pitched very well as a rotation starter in the Arizona Fall League post-2009 and has had no arm problems so far this Spring. But I would say he is in big trouble right now.
Justin Berg was brought into the game in relief of Parisi with no outs and the bases-loaded, and proceeded to allow all three inherited runners to score (one on a 6-3 ground out and another on a Donnie Webb two-out, two-strike, two-run RBI triple), although he himself was not charged with any runs. Berg does throw strikes (18 pitches - 14 strikes today), but he pitches to contact and doesn't miss a lot bats, so he is less likely than a "strikeout pitcher" to strand inherited runners.
RHP (and ex-catcher) Jake Muyco was brought up from Minor League Camp and tossed a 1-2-3 eight-pitch 9th.
Other than Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs could do nothing with Fausto Carmona today (Soriano, rapped a two-out single in the 2nd and a one-out double the 5th, but was left stranded both times), as Carmona retired 12 of the first 13 men he faced.
And the Cubs in fact remained scoreless until the bottom of the 9th (they couldn't do anything with Jamey Wright or Saul Rivera, either), as Kosuke Fukudome reached base on an E-6 (errant throw) and advanced to third on a James Adduci double into the LF-CF gap with one out, before both scored with two outs on a two-strike two-run RBI ground single into RF (off LHRP Rafael Perez) by Micah Hoffpauir, who--after being in an ice-cold slump for most of Spring Training--has started hitting the crap out of the ball the last few days.
Xavier Nady in particular had a bad day at the plate, going 0-4 with a ground out, a pop out in foul territory, and two strike outs (both swinging, the last one with one out and runners at 2nd & 3rd).
Andres Blanco returned to game action today after missing the last two weeks with a sprained knee, and made two nice defensive plays, one ranging far to his left to capture a ground ball and throwing out a batter 6-3, and the other ranging far to his right and making a fine running catch in foul territiory.
The Cubs travel to Surprise tomorrow to play the Kansas City Royals.