Villanueva & Sappelt Go Deep at HoHoKam
Christian Villanueva and Dave Sappelt drilled solo home runs to lead the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies this afternoon in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
Jhoulys Chacin and Edwin Jackson were the starting pitchers, and both threw two innings of shutout ball. Chacin retired all six men he faced, while Jackson (making his Cub debut) allowed back-to-back two-out singles in the top of the 1st inning. Jackson really had his sinker working today (5/1 GO/FO), and after struggling a bit with his control in the 1st (although he did not issue any walks), he got into a groove and fired 12 out of 14 pitches for strikes in the 2nd (30 total pitches over the two innings - 21 strikes).
After the first eight Cubs hitters were retired, Christian Villanueva took Jorge de la Rosa deep with a towering home run over the LF fence and onto to the berm just to the right of the scoreboard. The Cubs added another run off de la Rosa in the 4th as Starlin Castro ripped a lead-off double into the left-center alley, advanced to 3rd on an Anthony Rizzo 4-3 GO, before scoring on a Brett Jackson sacrifice fly (on a two strike pitch against a LHP). Including an intrasquad game last week, B-Jax has struck out only once in four games (8 PA).
The Rockies plated a run off Drew Carpenter in the 4th (Carlos Gonzalez singled, stole 2nd, and scored on a Ben Paulsen RBI single), but the Cubs responded in the 6th when Dave Sappelt slugged a HR over the fence and to the base of the scoreboard in left off Edgmer Escalona to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Chris Rusin followed Carpenter and threw two impressive & efficient shutout innings (30 pitches - 22 strikes), allowing a single in one inning and a double in the other, while inducing five ground outs. Rusin recorded another out when he showed a nifty pick-off move and caught Tyler Colvin leaning the wrong way off 1st base.
Ex-Rockie Zach Putnam threw a 1-2-3 7th (P-4, 1-3, F-9) at his former teammates, but Nick Struck gave up a lead-off triple to ex-Cub D. J. LeMahieu in the 8th, and LeMahieu scored on a sacrifice fly as the Rockies closed to the score to 3-2.
The Cubs added an insurance run in the 8th, as Brad Nelson, Welington Castillo, and Matt Szczur drew consecutive two-out walks off Adam Ottovino following a Dave Sappelt one-out single. Struck then recovered to throw a rocking-chair 1-2-3 9th (P-4, F-9, K-looking) to record the save.
Another sparse crowd at HoHoKam today (just over 4,000). The ticket scalpers working Center Street are on suicide watch.
Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.
Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.
There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!
Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.
Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.
Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.
Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.
Baez still learning
heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.
he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.
stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.
that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.
brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.
Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.
video of Maddon.
always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.
#Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs
Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.
Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.
Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.
I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.
If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?