Buck Stops Here
Travis Buck homered to key a three-run 9th, as an Oakland A's split squad defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & breezy Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano got the start for the Cubs and went 6+ innings (85 pitches - 54 strikes), allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, one walk, and a HBP, while striking out six (3/9 GO/FO).
The A's scored one run in the top of the 1st when Coco Crisp led-off with an infield single into the hole between 2nd & 3rd (as shortstop Ryan Theriot "showed-off" his below-average arm), ex-Cub Eric Patterson walked, and Eric Chavez reached base on a FC. with Crisp advancing to 3rd. Kevin Kouzmanoff then hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Crisp (although Kosuke Fukudome's throw from RF beat Crisp to the plate, and it looked like Crisp was tagged out by catcher Geovany Soto).
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd against A's starter LHP Dallas Braden, when Marlon Byrd led-off with a HR to the base of the scoreboard beyond the LF fence. Alfonso Soriano then hammered a double into the right-centerfield alley, and Jeff Baker roped a double of the LF fence to score Soriano. But that's all the Cubs could get in the inning, as Geovany Soto, Carlos Zambrano, and Ryan Theriot grounded out, leaving Baker stranded in scoring position.
Going into the 4th inning, Zambrano had retired nine of ten batters, and he should have retired the lead-off hitter in the 4th, too, except a back-pedaling Ryan Theriot dropped a pop-up in short left (a play Alfonso Soriano should have made), allowing the hitter (Kevin Kouzmanoff) to reach 2nd base on the E-6. Travis Buck followed with an RBI single (unearned run), but then Zambrano followed the Buck hit by retiring the next nine men in a row.
The Cubs threatened to score in the bottom of the 6th, as Derrek Lee walked and Aramis Ramirez lined a single with no outs. But then Marlon Byrd hit into a 5-4 FC, And Alfonso Soriano banged into an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP, leaving D-Lee stranded at 3rd.
Zambrano went back to the mound to start the 7th, but was removed after hitting the lead-off hitter with a pitch. Rookie LHP James Russell then entered the game and retired three in a row (F-7, Kc, and 4-3).
Jeff Samardzija threw a scoreless 8th (14 pitches - only 5 strikes), walking one, and having a lot of difficulty throwing strikes (as he has pretty much all Spring). But somehow he managed to get outs (5-3, P-4, F-9) despite pitching from behind in the count against every hitter he faced.
The Cubs threatened again in the bottom of the 8th, as Kosuke Fukudome roped a lead-off double into the right-field corner against A's LHRP Brad Kilby. Micah Hoffpauir walked, and Sam Fuld dropped a picture-perfect 5-4 sacrifice bunt, putting runners at 2nd & 3rd with one out. With a left-hander on the mound, Manager Lou Piniella chose to play the game like it mattered, and sent Kevin Millar up to the plate to pinch-hit for Chad Tracy. With the infield pulled-in for a play at the plate, Millar hit a pop-up into short CF that looked like it might fall in front of the centerfielder, when shortstop Cliff Pennington made a fine running catch, and threw out Fukudome trying to score from 3rd.
Carlos Marmol came into the game in the top of the 9th with the score tied 2-2, and immediately surrendered a home run over the right-field fence to Travis Buck, before hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch. Then with Taylor on the move, Landon Powell lined a single to right, sending Taylor to 3rd. Marmol then got what appeared to be a DP ground-ball to 2nd baseman Jeff Baker, except the transfer between Baker and shortstop Andres Blanco did not go smoothly, and Cliff Pennington reached base, with Taylor scoring from 3rd. After Pennington stole 2nd base, Shane Peterson lined an RBI single to score Penington from 2nd, and that was that for Marmol (16 pitches - 9 strikes, allowing three runs on three hits, a HBP and a HR).
RHP Justin Berg was brought in to "mop up," and got a "strike 'em out/throw 'em out" to end the inning.
The Cubs got the tying run to plate in the bottom of the 9th against RHRP Fernando Hernandez, as Jeff Baker drew a one-out walk and advanced to 2nd base when Andres Blanco lined an 0-2 pitch into left-field for a single. But with Tyler Colvin on deck, Chris Robinson grounded weakly into a 1-6-3 DP to end the game with a whimper.
The Cubs host the San Diego Padres at HoHoKam Park tomorrow.
BLOCK: Of course any advantage is an advantage. An MLB, NBA, or NHL team getting the extra game at home in a seven game series is an advantage, I just don't think it is enough of an advantage for winning a division and/or having the best record in a conference or league over the course of an 82-game season (NBA and NHL) or 162 game series (MLB).
TEX takes the opening game from TOR (@TOR) 5-3.
TOR lost bautista + donaldson in-game due to injuries...TEX lost beltre...dunno if any will be lingering issues leading to missed games.
Ride the Kid Magic! Schwarber hadn't homered in a long time before last night.
Greg Maddux was 8-18 in his rookie season. Kyle has the 8 wins down pat.
Think Baby Maddux.
Prof. Harold Hill's THINK system at work.
Kyle is on the far left.
I support this. Hendricks has not only looked better lately but seems to start struggling after a few innings which is better than the 1st in the playoffs.
Just tweeted via Jesse Rogers: Hendricks starting Game 2. Wow. Just wow.
That was good!
Well said. On one hand, I thought the HBP was a bad baseball play -- down 4 runs, put a runner on for a red-hot Fowler. On the other hand, they needed to do something -- I hadn't thought about the warning/pitching inside point. Is Hurdle that smart? He does not strike me that way. By the way -- not clear which fan base you are referring to in your "first" 3rd point.
My unsolicited opinions on topics covered in this thread:
1. I hate the fact that after 162 games, a team could be out after 1 game. However, I think the system is pretty close to perfect right now. 2 of 3 isn't feasible unless they shorten the regular season, and it ices the division winners for way too long. This creates excitement, and rewards the division winners.
Personally, I think the game could have had a very different look had the Pirates held onto the ball and tagged Fowler out on the steal in the first. Cole was clearly frazzled, but if they took that runner off the base, it could have relaxed him a lot.
Football games are played once a week. There are 16 games a year. I'm not even remotely following at all how you can compare the two leagues and playoff systems. It is physically impossible to play a home and away series. The idea of not having any road games in baseball playoffs is certainly a head scratcher.
How is not having the first and last game at home a benefit for the division winners and team with the best record? How is it not an incentive to win the division when a WC team has to blow their top pitcher?
Call me lost.
Two 97+ win teams in a do-or-die, great bullpens, overpowering starters, plenty of pop--hard to believe that game wouldn't be tense. A 4-0 lead is not a blowout, especially in that situation and with the Cubs' young bullpen. Not only would a defensive play here or there make a difference, but you get the win there also on the home plate umps strike zone (generous strike calls for Arrieta, including a couple Ks), and on Schwarber sitting on the right pitch at the right time.
I just noticed the Dodger's payroll today. It is just absurd. $300,000,000+!!
Here is where just some of their money is for 2015:
Carl Crawford $20MM
Brandon McCarthy $17MM
Bronson Arroyo $3.5MM
Darwin B $2.2MM
Dan Haren $10MM
Matt Kemp $18MM
Brian Wilson $10MM
Ryan Webb $2.2MM
Dee Gordon $2.5MM
So I think tomorrow will be the most important test of how far we can go. We can win it all with two pitchers since Arietta has shown he can carry over his success to the post season. If Lester can be dominant also then I think we can go far no matter how Hendricks or Hammel do.
And in terms of pitching just went through to see how we could maximize Lester and Arietta and came up with this (Lester would be going on 4 days rest three times and Arietta twice):
i still can't believe that crawford contract (7/142). all that loot and years for a LF'r who's entire hitting game revolves around his legs and line-drive power. those triples that raised his value are deceptive as hell to his true power, but it helped him get paid.
there's also pause about a guy who's ob% is almost totally driven by hits rather than walks. BOS got lucky unloading that crap deal.
I think the Cubs take Berry and Soler off playoff roster and add Hammel & Ramirez. Believe Maddon will find Denorfia & Jackson defense too hard to lose.