Grimm Day for Cubs at Riverview Park

Nick Jones (ex-LHP) belted a two-run home run and Jordan Johnson and four relievers combined to toss a four-hitter, helping the Giants defeat the Cubs 4-1 on Field #6, and Bryant Flete doubled, singled, and scored a run, and five Cub relievers combined to hurl five innings of perfect baseball, as the Cubs and Giants played to a 2-2 tie on Field #5, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split squad doubleheader action this morning at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park.

The game on Field #5 was called after seven innings with the score tied, and the game on Field #6 was called after 7-1/2 innings.   

Kevonte Mitchell tripled, singled, stole a base, and scored the lone Cub run on Field #6.

18-year old 6'6 RHP Austyn Willis (Cubs 2014 18th round draft pick - Barstow HS - Barstow, CA) got the start on Field #6 and threw three innings of one-hit shutout ball with four strikeouts, retiring Travis Ishikawa (on the Giants MLB 15-day DL with a lower back strain) three times (4-3 GO, K-swinging, and F-8 fly out). Willis has started three Cactus League EXST games, allowing one run on four hits (including a solo HR) and a walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. He will very likely be in the Eugene starting rotation when the Northwest League season commences next month.  

RHRP Justin Grimm (on the Cubs MLB 15-day DL with a forearm strain retroactive to April 2nd) worked the top of the 4th inning on Field #6 and was dominating, striking out the side on 12 pitches. He looks to be in mid-season form. 

The Giants are unusual because they have two ex-LHP at Extended Spring Training being converted to position players (usually it's the other way around). Besides 6'6 first-baseman Nick Jones (who belted a tape measure two-run HR over the RF fence that provided the winning margin for the Giants on Field #6 this morning), outfielder Steven Neff drilled three hits (a single, a double, and a triple) in a game against the Cubs earlier this week in Scottsdale. 

Here is the abridged box score from today's games (Cubs players only): 

The Cubs' Hot Start in Perspective

Records after just 20 games should be taken with a grain of salt. The standard small sample size caveats apply, and particular matchups or hot/cold streaks can skew a team's win-loss record considerably. Still, it's better to be off to a good start than a bad one, and good teams tend to play at least decently across most 20-game stretches throughout the season. The Cubs are off to a hot 12-8 start that places them 4th in the NL and 7th in the majors by winning percentage. How does this compare to recent Cub teams? The table below shows the record for the first 20 games for all Cubs teams since 1980 and their corresponding final season records. As you can see, prior to this year, the Cubs have only been above .500 through their first 20 games in 10 of the past 35 seasons. Doing so is no guarantee of end-of-season success, but the team finished above .500 in 7 of those 10 seasons, making the playoffs in 4 of them. The other three seasons can seemingly be explained away. The 1985 Cubs were very much the same team that won the division title in 1984, but injuries to the pitching staff (Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson, and Dennis Eckersley all spent time on the DL) hamstrung the squad. Similarly, the 2006 team started off well, but a Derrek Lee injury in late April started the team on a slide it couldn’t recover from, especially with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior out for most of the year. I can’t explain away 1980 as well, but the 11-9 start was probably a function of going 5-2 against the lowly Mets, who would finish 67-95 on the year. So, while there are no guarantees, there is a lot to like about the Cubs’ early season success in 2015 and a hot start certainly bodes well for the season as a whole.

Javy Baez Bats Eight Times in Cactus League Extended Spring Training Doubleheader

Justin Steele tossed three innings of one-hit shutout ball and Eloy Jimenez drove-in all three Cub runs with a two-run single and a sacrfice fly, as the Cubs and Giants played to a 3-3 tie on Field #1, and Dylan Davis belted a solo home run, a double, and an RBI single, and scored three runs, Steven Neff (ex-LHP) collected a single, a double, and a two-run triple, and Julio Pena slugged a solo home run, helping the Giants to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs on Field #2, in Cactus League Extended Spring Training split squad doubleheader action this morning at Indian School Park in Scottsdale, AZ.. 

The game on Field #1 was called in the 8th inning with the score tied, and the game on Field #2 was called after six innings of play. 

Danny Gutierrez drilled three hits (two singles and a double) in the game on Field #2, but he also committed two errors in LF, one by having a line-drive clank off his glove for a two-base error, and the other when he allowed a bouncing single to hop past him for a three-base error (the batter was able to circle the bases and score)  

Javy Baez played in the game on Field #1, batting eight times (once in each inning), and playing second-base for four innings before moving over to shortstop. He went 1-7 for the day... #1) roped a line drive single to left on a 1-0 pitch in the top of the first inning before scoring the Cubs first run of the day on a sacrifice fly; #2) grounded out sharply 5-3 on an 0-1 pitch in the top of the second inning; #3) struck out swinging on a 1-2 breaking ball in the third; #4) reached base after being hit by a pitch (upper left arm) on an 0-1 count and then scored a run in the fourth; #5) struck out swinging on a 2-2 breaking ball in the fifth; #6) lined out to right on a 1-1 pitch in the top of the sixth; #7) reached base on a throwing error by the Giants shortstop on a 2-2 pitch in the seventh, and #8) struck out looking on a 2-2 breaking ball in the top of the eighth. He handled four chances in the field flawlessly. 

In three Cactus League Extended Spring Training games (15 Plate Appearances) since returning from Bereavement Leave, Baez is 3-14 with two singles and a double, six strikeouts (five swinging), no walks, and one HBP. 

Here are the abridged box scores from today's games (Cubs players only): 

Javy Baez Goes 2-5 as Cubs Rally to Edge Angels

Kevin Encarnacion (RBI triple), Tyler Alamo (RBI single), and Jenner Emeterio (RBI single) contributed run-scoring hits to a four-run seventh, as the Cubs rallied to overcome a 4-2 deficit and then hung-on to edge the Angels 6-5 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park. 

Jose Paniagua belted a solo home run and Carson Sands tossed three innings of shutout ball to aid the Cub cause, and Travis Adair doubled twice, walked, and scored two runs, and Trevor Gretzky knocked-in two runs with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly for the Angels. 

Javy Baez played second-base for five innings and batted five times for the Cubs. He struck out (swinging) on three pitches his first time up, laced a line-drive double into the LF corner on a 2-0 pitch and later scored in his second AB, struck out (looking) on three pitches his third time up, roped a line-drive single to center on an 0-1 pitch in his fouth Plate Appearance, and flied out to deep RF on a 3-0 pitch in his final AB. He handled four chances flawlessly in the field.  

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game, RHPs Dylan Cease and Erling Moreno squared-off in a two inning intrasquad "sim" game on Field #4. Both pitchers are rehabbing from a 2014 elbow UCL transplant (Tommy John surgery). 

Here is the abridged box score frrom today's game (Cubs players only):

Javy Baez Back in Action at Extended Spring Training

Renato Nunez drilled an RBI double, walked twice, and scored a run, Iolana Akau ripped an RBI double and a single, Nate Freiman (on Oakland A's MLB 15-day DL with a lower back strain) reached base three times (walk, single, and HBP), and Matt Stalcup tossed four innings of shutout ball, leading the Athletics to a 4-1 victory over the Cubs in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action this morning on Field #6 at Mesa CubTown at Riverview Park in Mesa.

Frandy de la Rosa pulled a solo HR over the RF fence to account for the lone Cub run.  

Javy Baez was a DH and batted twice in the game, flying out to deep left-center his first time up, and striking out (swinging) on a 1-2 breaking ball his second time up. Baez is in the process of getting back into game shape at Extended Spring Training after missing the first two weeks of the regular season following the death of his sister.     

Prior to the Cactus League EXST game on Field #6, RHPs Jordan Brink, Jae-Hoon Ha (ex-OF), Scott Frazier, and Jose Zapata threw one inning a piece in a two-inning intrasquad "sim" game on Field #4. Baez "warmed-up" for the Cactus League EXST game by getting an AB in the "sim" game, rifling a double down the LF line off Brink. 

Here is the abridged box score from today's game (Cubs players only):

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