Shark Attacks the Tribe with Goose Eggs at HoHoKam Park
In what was one of the better performances by a Cubs starting pitcher at HoHoKam Park in quite some time, Jeff Samardzija showed Top-of-the-Rotation stuff while throwing six innings of shutout ball (67 pitches - 43 strikes), allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out five. Three relievers followed with three more shutout innings, as the Cubs blanked the Cleveland Indians 2-0 in Cactus League action this afternoon in Mesa, AZ.
Facing a mostly MLB-lineup, Samardzija absolutely breezed through his six innings of work, and after being relieved he went out to the bullpen and threw another 15 pitches, apparently so that he could reach his target of 80+ pitches.
If there was any doubt that Samardzija has the quality and variety of stuff and the stamina to be an MLB starting pitcher, today's outing should go a long way toward allaying those concerns. For example, he got three pop ups in a 1-2-3 4th, struck out the side with gas in a 1-2-3 5th, and got four grounders (one of which was a single) in the 6th (his last inning).
In addition to his pitching exploits, The Shark also ripped a lead-off triple into the LF alley in the bottom of the 5th, long-striding his way around the bases--like running a post-pattern at Notre Dame--before pulling into 3rd base standing up. Unfortunately the next three hitters went down on a feeble ground out and two weak pop ups to leave the Shark stranded at 3rd, but it was impressive none-the-less.
The Cub offense was equally weak against Tribe starter Josh Tomlin as the Cleveland hitters were against Samardzija, before breaking through against the obviously-tiring RHP in the bottom of the 6th.
Alfonso Soriano laced a top-spin liner to left to open the frame, and (with the Indians 1st baseman holding Soriano at 1st) Ian Stewart ripped a single through the wide-open 3.5 hole into RF with one out. Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather followed with RBI singles to plate two runs, giving the Cubs all the runs they needed.
Carlos Marmol worked the 7th, allowing a walk that was quickly erased on an inning-ending strike 'em out/throw 'em out (thanks to an on-the-dime throw to 2nd base by Steve Clevenger that nabbed Ryan Spliborghs).
James Russell allowed two hits in the 8th (a Felix Pie single and a two-out Asdrubal Cabera double), but struck out dangerous Shin-Soo Choo (swinging) on a nasty 3-2 breaking ball in the dirt to get out of the inning.
"On the bubble" for one of the last remaining slots in the Cub bullpen, Rafael Dolis worked a hitless 9th to get the save, but he did struggle with his command, walking two before getting a bat-breaking game-ending 6-3 ground out.
The defensive plays of the game were two nearly-identical over-the-shoulder catches by Starlin Castro in LF foul territory that brought back memories of Shawon Dunston. No shortstop was better than Dunston at catching pop-ups in the outfield, but Castro showed he can make those kinds of plays, too.
Castro also made another nice play on a grounder headed for CF, fielding the ball and getting off an off-balance throw to 1st baseman Bryan LaHair. The runner was called out (although it appeared that LaHair was not on the bag), but whether called safe or out, it was a very fine play indeed.
3rd baseman Ian Stewart also made a nice play on an infield chopper with a runner at 1st base and one out in the top of th 2nd, charging the ball and then rotating his body in the air to throw out the runner at 2nd base. I think Aramis Ramirez might have made the play and maybe gotten an out at 1st base, but no way A-Ram would have thrown out the lead runner at 2nd base. That took the kind of defensive skills and confidence that Stewart has that Ramirez lacks in the field.
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.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.
Considering how players reacted it seemed pretty accurate high and wide (to righties), but not so accurate low and in. I thought the strike zone by the ump was awful, but it was consistent and the Cubs never adjusted.
Rizzo and Bryant need to have good at bats. They are really looking outclassed in these two games.
that game sounds fun as hell.
I was just wondering the same thing. I'd rather not see it at all. If it's inaccurate, it's a bad viewer experience. If it's accurate, it shows some shitty calling by the umpire.
TBS' K Zone seems to be more harsh than the others.
I wonder if MLB will ask the networks to stop using them. They just make the umps, and the game, look bad, and it only pisses off the fans.
"Strop vs. Cardinals." Seen the movie. Hated it.
Not all that disappointed -- I didn't think they would beat Lackey in Game 1. Need to get the bats going against the guys with less experience -- and they hit Wacha pretty good.
Rizzo has been slumping the last couple weeks of the season. Very disappointed it has continued during his penultimate moment of his career to date.