Brandon Allen Rolls a Seven at HoHoKam
Brandon Allen drove-in seven runs with a grand slam home run, a two-run double, and an RBI ground out, leading the Oakland A’s to a hard-fought 12-10 victory over the Cubs in Opening Day Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
Veteran RHP Rodrigo Lopez got the start for the Cubs and threw two perfect innings (18 pitches – 14 strikes with two punch-outs), as the game was scoreless through the top half of the 2nd inning.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd off A’s starter Brandon McCarthy, as Darwin Barney ripped a two-out line-drive two-run double into the left-center gap, scoring Marlon Byrd (who had singled) and Jeff Baker (reached base on a FC after a David DeJesus walk).
Closer Carlos Marmol worked a perfect 1-2-3 eight-pitch 3rd, and then the Cubs scored again in the bottom of the 3rd.
Alfonso Soriano blooped a lead-off single to left-center and Ian Stewart followed with a ground single back through the box. Soriano then came around 3rd to score when A’s SS Cliff Pennington made a bad throw to 1st base thanks to a hard-slide by Stewart, who successfully derailed what should have been an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP.
But then the wheels started to come off next inning, as the A’s put up a six-spot. 2011 Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jeff Beliveau entered the game in the top of the 4th, and could not throw strikes (18 pitches – only 6 strikes). The lefty loaded the bases on two walks and a single, before walking in a run with his third free pass of the inning. Manager Dale Sveum pulled Beliveau at this point, bringing in 22-year old RHP Dae-Eun Rhee with no outs and the bases loaded.
Brandon Allen immediately unloaded the bases with a grand slam HR, blasted high & far over the RF fence and beyond the bullpens. Rhee surrendered another long ball two batters later, as Eric Sogard cranked a solo HR to give the A’s a 6-3 lead.
Oakland plated three more runs off Rhee in the 5th to take a 9-3 lead, as Brandon Allen ripped a two-run double before scoring on a Welington Castillo passed ball, but then W. Castillo lined a lead-off laser-beam HR over the LF fence in the bottom of the 6th to cut the lead to 9-4.
At this point, the Cubs starters (as per usual) were replaced by the “B” team.
In most years past, the 6th inning of a Cubs Spring Training game (especially early in Cactus League play) is when things stars to drag a bit, as the starters have left the game, replaced by a mostly-motley collection of 4-A players and second-rate prospects who hope to get some ST PT.
But maybe not so much this year.
With the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, Adrian Cardenas, Jae-Hoon Ha, and Junior Lake now in the lineup, the Cubs JV showed their mettle, mounting a stirring comeback and scoring five times in the bottom of the 6th off A’s reliever Edgar Gonzalez to tie the game at 9-9. And it was really a lot of fun to watch, too.
Anthony Rizzo opened the inning with an opposite-field single fisted over the shortstop’s head, Brett Jackson drew a walk, and Jim Adduci ripped an opposite-field line-drive single to left to load the bases. Dave Sappelt grounded an RBI single through the 5.5 hole to score Rizzo, and then Adrian Cardenas (claimed off waivers from Oakland last month) smoked a bases-clearing three-run triple into the RF corner to plate Jackson-Adduci-Sappelt and cut the A’s lead to one run. (BTW, after the game, about a dozen A’s players lined-up in front of the Cubs dugout to give their former teammate a fist-bump & a hug). After Micah Gibbs popped-out weakly to the third-baseman, Jae-Hoon Ha fought-off a tough pitch and slapped a broken-bat single to right-center to score Cardenas with the tying run.
Cubs rookie reliever Rafael Dolis threw an easy 1-2-3 7th (1-3, P-4, K) to keep the score tied at nine (Cardenas made an outstanding sliding catch in foul territory for the second out of the inning), but the A’s took back the lead in the top of the 8th off Cubs Rule 5 Draft pick Lendy Castillo.
Ex-Cub Josh Donaldson drew a lead-walk, and advanced to 3rd on a picture-perfect hit & run single by Jeff Fiorentino that was directed at the spot second-baseman Cardenas had just vacated. Donaldson then scored on a 3-U ground out, when Cubs rookie 1B Anthony Rizzo made a bad decision, trying to touch the 1st base bag and then making the throw to the plate instead of going home with the ball immediately.
The Cubs re-tied the game in the bottom of the 8th, as Dave Sappelt drew a lead-off walk, and came around to score on a ground out and a two-out Jae-Hoon Ha infield single + E-5 throwing error by 3B Donaldson.
But the A’s took the lead for good in the top of the 9th, scoring twice off RHRP Marcos Mateo. Jason Pridle drew a one-out walk and Chris Carter doubled, putting runners at 2nd & 3rd. Pridle then scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a Brandon Allen ground-out (no play available at home), and PR Cedric Hunter scored an “insurance run” on a Josh Donaldson RBI single.
Mateo is out of minor league options, so the Cubs have until the end of Spring Training to decide if he has what it takes to pitch in a big league bullpen.
Travis Schlichting set the Cubs down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th to preserve the victory.
The Cubs will play the A's again tomorrow afternoon at HoHoKam Park.