Reds Battle Back to Edge Cubs at HoHoKam
Bobby Scales had two singles, a double, two RBI, and two runs scored, helping the Cubs rally from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-4 5th inning lead, but the Reds scored two runs in the 6th to tie the game and an unearned run in the 7th to take the lead, and then held-on to edge the Cubs 7-6 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny and warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Both the Reds and the Cubs were playing with split squads, with each team's other half playing each other in Las Vegas.
Carlos Silva got the start for the Cubs today, and had a much better outing than his last one, which really isn't saying much. He retired the first six men he faced today L-7, 6-3, P-6, F-8, P-6, and K on just 20 pitches (15 strikes), but then the Reds started to tag him for extra base hits beginning in the top of the 3rd. Chris Heisey absolutely crushed a HR off the scoreboard beyond the LF fence to lead off the inning, and then with one out, Ramon Hernandez ripped a double and Edgar Renteria laced an RBI single to give the Reds a 2-0 lead. Silva retired the 3-4-5 hitters (Bruce-Rolen-Gomes) 1-2-3 in the 4th F-8, F-8, F-9, but then struggled to get through the 5th, surrendering a Jeremy Hermida lead-off HR over the RF fence, a Yonder Alonso one-out triple, and a sacrifice fly.
For the day, Silva allowed four runs (all earned) on five hits (a single, a double, a triple, and two home runs), no walks, and two strikeouts (Jeremy Hermida and Edgar Renteria). He threw 59 pitches (42 strikes) in his five innings of work, with a 5/8 GO/FO.
One thing about Silva is that he works fast and throws a high percentage of strikes (71% today), probably the highest perecentage of strikes of any Cub pitcher. He does not nibble. But unlike most guys who "pitch to contact," Silva throws a lot of high fastballs that get transformed into extra-base hits when the batter hits it square (which happens fairly often). But Silva doesn't seem to mind, he just keeps throwing strikes at the belt. He reminds me of a utility player who is brought into a 15-2 blow-out in the top of the 9th to pitch an inning and save the bullpen. Or maybe a coach throwing BP before a game.
Meanwhile, the Cubs had several scoring opportunities against Reds starter Homer Bailey (six hits and two walks in four innings), getting two runners on base in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings, but scoring just once, and that was in the bottom of the 4th when Bobby Scales led-off with a single, James Adduci walked, Carlos Silva laid-down a nice SH, and Fernando Perez rapped an RBI ground out to score Scales from 3rd.
The Cubs then put up a five-spot in the bottom of the 5th against Dontrelle Willis, who could not find home plate. Marlon Byrd walked on four pitches, and Aramis Ramirez looped a single into right-center. Carlos Pena popped out, but then Geovany Soto walked to load the bases, before Bobby Scales smashed a two-run RBI single to score Byrd and Ramirez. Willis suffered what appeared to be a knee injury backing-up home plate and had to leave the game. He was replaced by RHP Jordan Smith, who struck out PH Kyler Burke (looking) for the second out of the inning after Jim Adduci reached on an E-4 to load the bases. But Fernando Perez and Darwin Barney each stroked two-out RBI singles to knock-in Soto, Scales, and Adduci, and give the Cubs a 6-4 lead.
Todd Wellemeyer entered the game for the Cubs in the top of the 6th, and he really struggled through his first inning of work, needing 40 pitches (only 24 strikes) and a spectacular catch by RF Jim Adduci (a leaping grab of what should have been a Brandon Phillips HR, taking the ball back from beyond the fence) to get out of the inning with only two runs scoring. Unlike Silva, Wellemeyer had difficulty throwing strikes, and when he did he could not put hitters away, as Reds hitters continually popped foul balls into the stands.
After Adduci made his HR saving catch to open the inning, Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen singled, Jonny Gomes knocked-in Bruce with a ringing double (sendiing Rolen to 3rd). Jeremy Hermida walked to load the bases, and then Chris Heisey walked to force-in Rolen and tie the game. At this point there was only one out, the bases were loaded, Wellemeyer had already thrown 32 pitches, and there was action in the Cubs bullpen. But Wellemeyer buckled down, striking out Yonder Alonso, and retiring Ramon Hernandez to leave the bases loaded.
The Reds scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the 7th. Paul Janish worked Wellemeyer for a lead-off walk, was advanced to 2nd on a SH, and scored on a two-out throwing error by Aramis Ramirez (a lazy toss to 1st base on what should have been an easy 5-3 GO) that resulted in an unearned run scoring (and it turned out to be the eventual winning run).
It appeared that the Cubs intention today was to "piggyback" Silva and Wellemeyer, with each pitcher throwing four or five innings. But because Wellemeyer needed 58 pitches to get through two innings, Cubs top pitching prospect RHP Trey McNutt (who couldn't get through one inning without being relieved in his Cactus League debut last Sunday) was pressed into service and looked good, pitching a shutout 8th (19 pitches - 12 strikes, 2/0 GO/FO), getting two ground outs and a strikeout, while allowing just a harmless infield single. The 21-year old McNutt probably will be sent to Minor League Camp in a day or two, but at least he ended his Big League Camp Experience on a positive note. With only one full year of pro experience under his belt, McNutt will likely begin the 2011 season as the #1 starter at AA Tennessee (and the Smokies could be one of the best teams in minor league baseball in 2011, at least until some of the better prospects get moved up later in the season).
Justin Berg pitched the 9th, and although he did not allow a run, he could not find home plate either, walking one and then tossng a WP, while throwing 17 pitches (but only eight strikes). Like McNutt, Berg's time at big league camp could be numbered, but unlike with McNutt, it's not ending on a positive note.
Josh Vitters entered the game at 3B in the 8th, but left after playing only one half-inning. I don't know what happened to him. He did not bat and he made no plays in the field while he was in the game.
The Cubs called up a number of position players from Fitch Park (Minor League Camp) for today's Cactus League game, and all eight of the players summoned (Kyler Burke, Matt Cerda, Evan Crawford, Marwin Gonzalez, Jae-Hoon Ha, D. J. Lemahieu, Rebel Ridling, and Logan Watkins) were among the 16 position players who reported early to Minor League Camp last week. Which only goes to prove the old axiom, "The early bird catches the shuttle van to HoHoKam."