Cubs Defense & Bullpen Falter in 9th
Down to their last strike, the Cubs rallied for three runs in the top of the 9th to take a 5-3 lead, only to see the Giants take advantage of a two-base throwing error in the bottom of the 9th and score two runs to tie the game, as the EXST Cubs and EXST Giants played to a 5-5 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale this morning.
The Giants got off to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st when Giants clean-up hitter Michael Sandoval roped a line-drive two-run homer down the LF line off Cubs starter Eduardo Figueroa.
Shut out and shut down with only two hits and three baserunners to show for their efforts through the first five innings, the Cubs came back in the top of the 6th, as Vismeldy Bieneme grounded a single to CF and Kyung-Min Na bounced a single past the shortstop with one out. Bieneme used his speed (he had 42 SB in the DSL last season) to take an extra base on Na’s single, sliding safely into 3rd on a bang-bang play as the speedy Na (rated the fastest HS baseball player in South Korea last year) alertly motored into second base. Arismendy Alcantara then hit a sacrifice fly to CF to score Bieneme with the Cubs first run of the day.
Trailing 3-1 going into the 8th, the Cubs narrowed the gap to 3-2 as Manuel Pestana reached base on an infield single, and advanced to 3rd when Melvin Camarena fisted a bloop single down the RF line. Pestana then scored on a Vismeldy Bieneme sacrifice fly to CF.
Down 3-2 going into the top of the 9th, Jose Guevara lined a single to left and Charles Thomas looped a single to CF with no outs. Xavier Batista dropped a beautiful sacrifice bunt down the third base line (that he nearly beat-out) to advance the runners up one base each, but Blair Springfield struck out with one out and the tying run at 3rd (Springfield’s third whiff of the day). Pin-Chieh Chen then swung and missed on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt for what should have been the game-ending out, but the ball bounced past the catcher for a wild pitch, allowing Chen to reach base and Guevara to score. Then with Chen running on a 3-2 pitch, Manuel Pestana blooped a single into CF, as Thomas scored from 3rd and Chen (running all the way) scored from 1st to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead.
RHP Carlos Rojas came into the game in the bottom of the 9th with a two run lead and a chance at a save, but he got into trouble right away when shortstop Pin-Chieh Chen threw a ball over the head of Charles Thomas (and with Thomas being 6’4 225+, that’s not easy to do) and into the Cubs dugout for a two-base error (Chen’s second errant throw of the game). A triple, a walk, and an RBI single later, and the game was tied. Rojas did retire the last two batters (F-7 and a K-swinging) with the potential winning run at 2nd base, but the damage was done.
One day after OF Albert Hernandez made his U. S. debut for the EXST Cubs, three more right-handed hitting outfielders who recently arrived at Fitch Park from the Cubs Dominican Academy saw their first Extended Spring Training game action. 18-year old 6’3 190 Dominican Xavier Batista (241/333/409 with a team-leading 8 HR for DSL Cubs #1 in 2009) got the start in RF and hit 5th, 20-year old 5’11 155 Venezuelan Manuel Pestana (239/340/315 for DSL Cubs #1 in 2009) played LF and hit 8th, and 20-year old 6’4 225 Dominican Melvin Camarena (271/319/376 for DSL Cubs #2 in 2009) was DH #2 and batted 9th, and each contributed in some way to run-scoring innings.
Here is today’s abridged box score (EXST Cubs players only):
1. Kyung-Min Na, CF: 1-4 (F-7, P-5, 1B, K)
2. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B: 1-3 (1B, 6-3, F-8 SF, 4-3, RBI)
3a. Sergio Burruel, C: 0-3 (4-3, K, K)
3b. Jose Guevara, C: 1-1 (1B, R)
4. Charles Thomas, 1B: 1-2 (BB, 4-3, BB, 1B, R, SB)
5. Xavier Batista, RF: 0-3 (K, 5-3, K, 5-4 SH)
6. Blair Springfield, DH #1: 0-4 (K, 5-3, K, K)
7. Pin-Chieh Chen, SS: 1-4 (F-9, 1B, 4-3, K, R)
8. Manuel Pestana, LF: 2-4 (L-5, 6-4 FC, 1B, 1B, R, 2 RBI)
9. Melvin Camarena, DH #2: 1-4 (K, K, 1B, 5-3, SB)
10. Vismeldy Bieneme, 3B: 1-2 (K, 1B, F-8 SF, R, RBI)
1. Eduardo Figueroa – 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 1 PO, 2/5 GO/FO, 39 pitches (26 strikes)
2. Frank Batista – 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 3 K, 1/5 GO/FO, 31 pitches (20 strikes)
3. Danny Keefe – 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GO/FO, 26 pitches (16 strikes)
4. Carlos Rojas – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, 0/1 GO/FO, 22 pitches (14 strikes)
1. SS Pin-Chieh Chen E-6 (throwing error allowed batter to reach base with one out in the bottom of the 5th)
2. SS Pin-Chieh Chen E-6 (two-base throwing error leading off bottom of the 9th, eventually leading to unearned run scoring)
CF Kyung-Min Na threw out baserunner 8-5 trying to advance from 2nd to 3rd base on a fly out to CF
WEATHER: Mostly sunny with temperatures in the 70’s
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.
If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?