Sori and Barney Wash Sox in Defeat
Darwin Barney singled and scored in the 2nd inning and sliced a two-out two-run triple into the RF corner to cap a four-run 5th, while Alfonso Soriano slugged a solo HR in the 4th and singled and scored in the 5th, leading the Cubs to an 8-7 victory over the crosstown-rival White Sox before a capacity crowd at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny and warm Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Matt Garza got the start for the Cubs and threw three shutout innings, before the Sox began to chip away at the ex-Ray for a run in the 4th (BB, 1B, GIDP, 1B) and two more in the 5th (Omar Vizquel two-run HR over the RF fence). Garza benefitted from two neat DPs turned by the Cub infield (Castro-Barney-Pena both times), one in the 3rd and one in the 4th, or the day might not have turned out so well.
As it is, Garza worked five innings (88 pitches - 57 strikes), allowing the three runs (all earned) on eight hits and two walks, with four strikeouts and a 5/6 GO/FO. It wasn't exactly what I would call a stellar performance, but at least it was better than his previous Cactus League outings, and he did get his pitch count up to near regular season levels.
Braden Looper followed Garza to the hill, working the 6th and 7th innings (35 pitches - 22 strikes). He allowed a run in the 6th (two singles and a double), but threw a shutout 7th with a walk the only blemish. Looper did not show a strikeout pitch today, but he did get some timely infield pop ups to get out of further trouble in both innings (2/4 GO/FO). Whether his performance today (coupled with his previous sometimes extremely mediocre Cactus League outings) will be enough to get him the last slot in the bullpen (long relief) remains to be seen, but if I had to guess, I would say probably not. I mean, why pay Looper a million bucks (plus incentives) when Casey Coleman (for example) can do the same job for MLB minimum wage?
I would have mentioned James Russell in the same sentence with Casey Coleman (see previous paragraph), except Russell probably pitched himself to Des Moines with his one inning of work today. Russell surrendered back-to-back home runs to Donny Lucy and Alexi Ramirez (and neither one was a "cheapy," either) on consecutive pitches to open the top of the 8th, cutting what had been a comfortable 8-4 Cub lead to 8-6.
Carlos Marmol pitched the 9th and made things interesting, but not because of walks or hit batsmen. Marmol did throw an unusually high-percentage of strikes, but he also allowed a lead-off single to Paul Konerko on a 3-2 pitch and a two-out RBI double into the LF corner to Donny Lucy (who had a nice day), before finally getting the final out on a called third strike he somehow got past Alexi Ramirez.
Meanwhile, the Cubs offense made major inroads against Sox starter (and one-time Met #1 draft pick and BA Top 100 Prospect) RHP Philip Humber, scoring twice in the 1st, once in the 2nd, once in the 4th, and then four more times in the 5th, to take an 8-3 lead.
Kosuke Fukudome drew a walk (something he does best) leading-off the bottom of the 1st, and Starlin Castro laced a double to left center to move Fukudome to 3rd. Marlon Byrd hit a more-than-adequate sacrifice fly to plate Kosuke, and then Aramis Ramirez pulled a shattered bat double into the left-field corner to score Castro with the second run of the inning.
Darwin Barney led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a ground single through the box and into CF, and then Koyie Hill drew his first of two walks (if you can't hit your way on, might as well find another way). Matt Garza then faked a bunt and tried the ol' "butcher boy" slug-bunt play, and it really worked, too, as he chopped the ball almost over the 2nd baseman's head for a hit, save for a leaping grab and throw to 1st by Omar Vizquel to nab Garza. But the play did move Barney and Hill up a base a piece, and Fukudome cashed-in the scoring opportunity, scoring Barney with a another Cub SF.
After the Sox had scored in the top of the 4th to cut the Cub lead to 3-1, Alfonso Soriano got the run right back, clubbing a towering solo HR over the right-centerfield fence (just to the right of the CF "Green Monster" Batter's Eye) leading off the bottom of the 4th.
The Cubs seemingly put the game away in the bottom of the 5th against Humber and ex-Cub LHRP Will Ohman. Castro drew a one-out walk, advanced to 2nd on a Humber WP, and scored on a Marlon Byrd line-drive RBI single to RF. Aramis Ramirez walked, and then after Will Ohman came into the game and struck out Carlos Pena swinging (Pena's third strikeout of the game, the first two being called third strikes), Soriano grounded a single to left to score Byrd, and Barney tripled into the RF corner to plate Ramirez and Soriano, and close the Cubs scoring for the day.
The Cubs announced several roster cuts before today's game, optioning OF Fernando Perez to AAA Iowa, and sending INF Matt Camp, Scott Moore, Augie Ojeda, and Bobby Scales to minor league camp (where all four will be assigned to the Iowa squad). Perez had a poor Spring, and Reed Johnson simply outplayed the ex-Ray in just about all phases of the game (Perez is clearly a lot faster than Johnson), although Johnson himself just started to catch fire at the plate in recent days. Whether the Cubs will commit to R. Johnson as their 5th OF or continue to scour the eBis waiver wire for other alternatives remains to be seen.
I was somewhat surprised that the Cubs opted to keep Blake DeWitt on the Opening Day 25-man roster, when Bobby Scales and Scott Moore clearly outhit DeWitt throughout Spring Training. None of the three play 2B very well (Scales is actually probably the best of the three), and DeWitt does have one minor league option left, so it's not like the Cubs would have risked losing him off waivers if they had tried to send him down. And if DeWitt were to spend at least 100 days on optional assignment to the minors in 2011 he would not be eligible for salary arbitration post-2011, which would likely save the Cubs about $1M in 2012 payroll.
The Cubs had some good runs and nice winning streaks that propelled them to the playoffs. Austin Jackson wasn't part of that. I don't quite understand what it is about Jackson that they are so enamored with.
I think the strike zone was very inconsistent, but it's hard to blame the loss on the ump. They had chances and mistake pitches and just couldn't cash in. Lackey ran the ball inside and outside very effectively.
Correct. Castro 5th, AJax 6th; I'll edit my lineup post to fix this.
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, Castro, AJax, Montero, Hendricks, Russell
if he put ajax 1st/2nd in the f'n playoffs he deserves to lose his nearly sure-thing MOY award to terry collins.
I believe Castro batting fifth, Ajax (LF) sixth
Maddon did not listen to me yesterday re Strop, or EricS on Schwarbs today.
Wtf is up w/that?!
Crunch got his wish - Ajax not hitting 1-2 in the lineup ...
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.