Rangers Edge Cubs 8-7
Carlos Zambrano threw three shutout innings, Blake DeWitt doubled, singled, drove-in a run, and scored another, and Augie Ojeda smacked a bases-loaded two-run double, but a split squad of Texas Rangers rallied from a 5-1 deficit to edge the Cubs 8-7 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.
Although he did not allow a run, Zambrano did allow five baserunners (two singles, two walks, and a HBP) and struggled with his control (41 pitches - only 20 strikes), consistently missing up. But he made pitches and threw strikes when he needed them most, and was able to survive unscathed.
Braden Looper followed "Z" to the mound and worked two innings (24 pitches - 14 strikes). He was hit hard in his first inning, but threw more effectively in his second inning when he retired the Rangers 1-2-3.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were assuming a 5-1 lead.
Blake DeWitt doubled into the LF corner to lead off the bottom of the 1st, and then with two outs, Aramis Ramirez single to left to score DeWitt from 3rd base with the first run of the day.
The Cubs then scored four more runs in the bottom of the 4th.
Carlos Pena walked and Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto singled to load the bases, before Augie Ojeda smacked a double past the 1st baseman and down the RF line and into the corner, scoring Pena and Soriano. Braden Looper then lined a sacrifice fly to score Soto from 3rd (as the ball almost sailed over the head of RF Doug Deeds), and DeWitt followed the Looper SF with an RBI single to score Ojeda, as the Cubs took a 5-1 lead.
But RHP Rafael Dolis had a bad day, as the 23-year old fireballer was only able to retire one batter in the top of the 6th before being relieved. It wasn't so much that he was hit hard, it's just that he threw a boatload of pitches to get just one out (32 pitches - 20 strikes). Dolis allowed two hits (including a Mitch Moreland monster three-run jack that landed just in front of the Party Pavillion located well beyond the RF fence) and two walks, but he was also hurt by an error (dropped catch) by 1st baseman Scott Moore on what should have been an easy 6-3 put-out to open the inning, and then the next batter (Omar Quintanilla) had a 13-pitch AB that featured two sprawling unsuccessful attempts at spectacular catches by LF Matt Camp in foul territory down the LF line. Esmailin Caridad eventually relieved Dolis and got the final two out of the inning easily, but not before the Rangers had tied it up at 5-5.
Texas took the lead off Thomas Diamond in the top of the 8th, as PH David Paisano tripled off the right-centerfield fence, driving in two runs before being thrown out at the plate trying to stretch the triple into an inside-the-park HR. Like Zambrano earlier in the game, Diamond struggled with his control, throwing 20 pitches (but only ten for strikes) in his one inning of work.
The Cubs did score two runs with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, as Marquez Smith doubled down the LF line, and Scott Moore and Matt Camp followed with RBI line-drive singles. So the Cubs had the potential tying run on base and the potential winning run at the plate, but the batter was Koyie Hill, and he popped-out weakly against LHRP Ben Snyder (Brad's younger brother) to CF to end the game.
The Cubs defense was marginally better today. Besides the Scott Moore dropped throw that led to two unearned runs, the Cubs also were unable to turn double plays twice in the first three innings that might have helped Zambrano to get through his three innings with a bit less stress.
Michael Young got the start at 2B for the Rangers today (perhaps as a showcase for a possible trade with the Cubs?), and he had a line-drive single and a walk in his two Plate Appearances. Interestingly, Rafael Dolis was rumored to be on the Rangers radar during the off-season in a deal that would have sent Dolis and C Robinson Chirinos to Texas for RHRP Darren O'Day and 1B Chris Davis, as a precursor to the Rangers acquiring Matt Garza from Tampa Bay (with Chirinos one of the players who would have gone to TB).