You Can't Catch It If You Can't See It
Jered Weaver threw five innings of one-hit shutout ball while striking out nine (no walks), and Cubs pitchers were battered to the tune of 16 hits (including one triple, two doubles, and three home runs), as the Los Angeles Angels pounded a Cubs split squad 11-0 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano made his last Spring training start in preparation for Opening Day next Monday in Atlanta, and "Z" did not have his best stuff today.
He pitched four innings (73 pitches - 45 strikes), and actually looked OK in the middle of his outing, even retiring eight of nine hitters at one point.
But it was the beginning and the end that wasn't too good.
Zambrano gave up a lead-off single to Maicer Izturis in the top of the first, but then got some serendipity when, with Izturis on the move (big jump) and Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot running over to cover second base, #2 hitter Mike Ryan lined a shot right at Theriot, who caught the ball at his shoetops and then easily doubled Izturis off 1st base. So two outs, nobody on base. But then Brandon Wood ripped a single, and clean-up hitter Mike Napoli blasted a home run off the scoreboard in LF to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
Zambrano more-or-less cruised through the next couple of innings, getting the first man he faced in the 4th (Mike Napoli) on strikes (swinging). But then Zambrano walked Robb Quinlan on four pitches, and local lad Peter Bourjos roped a triple into left-center, scoring Quinlan. Terry Evans followed that with an RBI single (Evans had five hits and three RBI today), before getting picked-off 1st base as an alert Geovany Soto made a pinpoint throw to nab Evans as he tried to get back to the bag.
Sean Marshall worked an easy nine-pitch 1-2-3 5th (6-3, F-9, 5-3) in relief of Zambrano, but then Jeff Samardzija got hit hard in the 6th, allowing a two-run HR to Peter Bourjos and two hard-hit singles. The Shark just could not keep his pitches down today, and Cubs Manager Lou Piniella really should be worrying about his bullpen if Samardzija has a featured role in it.
With the Cubs down 6-0, rookie LHP James Russell entered the game in the 7th, and the Angels proceeded to load the bases on three straight singles, although one was an infield hit to short (Ryan Flaherty could knock it down but was unable to field it cleanly) and another was a routine fly ball that Marlon Byrd lost in the sun (by my count the 4th time he has done that this Spring... but I guess if you can't see it, you can't catch it, even though most-other outfielders out here don't have that much trouble doing it).
But Russell actually responded pretty well to his bases-loaded & none out jam, getting the next three hitters on a strikeout (swinging), a ground out, and a fly out, keeping the damage to a minimum (just one run, and it was his first earned run allowed this Spring, too).
Justin Berg got hit like a BP pitcher in the 8th (allowing two runs on two doubles and a single), and Esmailin Caridad gave up a long two-run HR in the 9th to 5-for-5 man Terry Evans, although Caridad did get two punch-outs in his one inning of work (the first and last men he faced in the inning, both swinging).
The Cubs offense was truly offensive today, getting just two hits (a broken-bat single by Xavier Nady with one out in the bottom of the 2nd, and a line-drive single to left with one out in the 9th by AA 1B Russ Canzler, who was up from Minor League Camp for the day).
The Cubs did load the bases in the 8th on walks (actually the Cubs drew four walks in the inning) but failed to score. Nady walked to lead off the inning, then was erased when Alfonso Soriano rolled into a 5-4-3 DP. Then Darwin Barney, Geovany Soto, and PH Brandon Guyer each drew walks, before Ryan Flaherty struck out (looking) to end the inning.
While one Cubs split squad was getting squelched ugly in Mesa, the other one was blowing a 6-4 8th inning lead against the Brewers in Maryvale.
Rookie RHP Jay Jackson started the game for the Cubs, and he would have thrown four shutout innings except for the Prince Fielder 3rd inning grand slam.
The Cubs did come back, though, scoring three in the 5th and then three more in the 7th (the big blow being a Micah Hoffpauir two-run PH double that gave the Cubs the lead). But then Iowa Cubs right-handers Alessandro Maestri and Brian Schlitter imploded in the 8th, as the Brew Crew scored eight runs, giving themselves a big lead they would not surrender.
The Cubs play the Colorado Rockies at HoHoKam Park in Mesa tomorrow.
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump