In what was definitely his best performance of the Spring Ryan Dempster threw 5 innings of one-hit shutout ball at Mesa's HoHoKam Park today, although the Cubs went on to lose the game to the Oakland A's by a score of 5-2.
Coming back from an atrocious outing last week, Dempster was very sharp today, posting a line of no runs on one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts in 5.1 IP, throwing 78 pitches (46 strikes), with a 5/7 GB/FB.
However, A's starter Joe Blanton was also on his game (six shutout innings), so the game stayed scoreless going into the bottom of the 7th inning.
The Cubs struck first, as Derrek Lee lined an opposite-field home run into the right-field bullpen off A's reliever Andrew Brown to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Aramis Ramirez walked, and then Henry Blanco smoked a double into the left-center field alley, scoring Ramirez all the way from 1st.
Kevin Hart entered the game in the top of the 8th, a "back-to-back" outing following his strong inning of work yesterday. But Hart was terrible today, allowing a double, a single and two walks, before being relieved by Carlos Marmol, with the Cubs leading 2-1, one out, and the bases loaded. And Marmol was no relief, either. .
As has been the case in most of his appearances this Spring, Marmol could not find the plate, and was behind on every hitter. He displayed a lot of negative emotion on the mound, and looked to be very frustrated with himself.
Marmol walked the first batter he faced to force-in the tying run, and then gave up an RBI line single to right and a FC RBI, before finally retiring the side. Marmol allowed another run in the 9th after walking the lead-off hitter.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th (single by Ramirez and walks to Fukudome and Blanco), but with the tying runs on base, Felix Pie flied out to deep right to end the game.
Henry Blanco had a good day at the plate today, going 2-3 with an RBI double, a single, and and a walk, and he also threw out a runner trying to steal. Aramis Ramirez was also 2-3 with a walk and a run scored, and Ryan Theriot was 2-4 with a triple.
Other notable pitching performances by the Cubs today included:
Michael Wuertz (who gave up a double and a single in the top of the 6th after relieving Dempster, but no runs thanks to a strong throw by Kosuke Fukudome to cut down a runner at the plate to end the inning),
Sean Gallagher (who walked the bases loaded before being relieved with one out in the top of the 7th),
Les Walrond (who somewhat surprisingly struck out two batters with the bases loaded in relief of Gallagher).
The Cubs will play the second half of their "Split Squad Wednesday" this evening versus the Giants in Scottsdale.