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.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.