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).
I think that if a team objects to the 1-game wildcard playin game so much, they could just win the pennant and avoid themselves the trouble.
Per Jesse Sanchez at mlb.com, Cubs reportedly have signed 20-year old Cuban OF Eddy Julio Martinez for $3M bonus.
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):