Jordan Danks smacked a solo HR over the RF fence to break a 5-5 tie in the top of the 10th, and the White Sox scored another unearned run later in the inning, en route to a 7-5 extra inning victory over a Cubs split-squad in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in cold, blustery, and rainy Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
It rained most of the night and again for about a half-hour just after noon (including a short burst of hail around 12:45), resulting in a 30-minute delay to the start of the game.
Once underway, Casey Coleman threw probably his best outing of the spring. The 24-year old third-generation MLB hurler tossed three shutout innings at the ChiSox (40 pitches – 28 strikes, 2/4 GO/FO), allowing two hits and no walks, while striking out three. (After he left the game, Coleman threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen).
RHP Gavin Floyd was the scheduled White Sox starter but was scratched just prior to game-time, probably because the Sox wanted Floyd to throw a certain number of pitches (perhaps 60), without having to worry about getting interrupted by a rain delay (which was a distinct possibility).
As a result, RHP Zach Stewart (who was probably going to “piggy-back " with Floyd anyway) took the ball and pitched the first three innings, allowing the Cubs two runs on six hits.
The Cubs opened their scoring in the bottom of the 2nd, as Jeff Baker and Josh Vitters lined singles to right. Alfredo Amezaga sliced an opposite-field double into the LF corner to score Baker and Vitters, and then Tony Campana followed with a line single to left to move Amezaga to 3rd (Campana’s first hit of the Spring). But David DeJesus popped out and (after Campana stole 2nd) Marlon Byrd grounded out, as the Cubs left runners stranded at 2nd & 3rd. The Cubs scored another run in 4th off ex-Cub LHRP Will Ohman, as Josh Vitters led-off with a ringing double into the left-center alley, and moved up to 3rd on a fly out. Tony Campana then executed a safety squeeze bunt single to score Vitters.
Kerry Wood worked an 11-pitch 4th for the Cubs, allowing back-to-back one-out singles that put Sox runners on 1st & 3rd. But Woody was able to get Alexei Ramirez to roll into a 6-4-3 DP to end the inning. Wood has not looked particularly sharp so far (he reminds me a bit of Bob Howry at the end of his career), although he has managed to dodge a few scoring threats by getting a DP grounder here or a pop up there when he really needed one (like today). I just don’t know how much KW has left in the tank.
Carlos Marmol worked a 13-pitch 5th, walking one, but allowing no hits or runs. Marmol didn’t seem to fool anybody, but at least this time he was able to retire the side without incident.
Up 3-0 after five, the Cubs saw their lead evaporate in the top of the 6th, as RHP Andy Sonnanstine got hammered. To say the ex-Tampa Bay RHP was worse than the box score might indicate would certainly be true today.
Sonnanstine allowed five runs in the 6th inning, including a two-run HR by Dan Johnson, a Tyler Flowers RBI double, and a two-run single by Gordon Beckham, and he wasn’t really much more effective in the top of the 7th, either, as the Sox loaded the bases with no outs on a single and two walks. But Cubs rookie 1B Anthony Rizzo made a leaping catch of a Jordan Danks screaming line-drive that was headed for the RF corner (where it would have almost certainly cleared the bases), then doubled-up the runner at 1st, and giving Sonnanstine an opportunity to get out of the inning unscathed with an inning-ending ground out.
Sonnanstine has had a horrible Spring, and I don’t know how many more chances he will get before the Cubs either outright him to the minors or release him.
The Cubs came back to tie the score in the bottom of the 8th, loading the bases with no outs on an E-3, a walk, and an infield single. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters both walked with the bases loaded to tie the score, but Matt Szczur popped out, Alfredo Amezaga struck out, and Tony Campana grounded out to end the threat and leave the bases loaded.
Marcos Mateo (out of minor league options and battling for a job in the Cub bullpen) walked two in the top of the 9th, but induced Jim Gallagher to bounce into an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP to get out of the jam. And then after the Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th, Mateo surrendered what proved to be the game-winning HR to Jordan Danks (6’4 “little” brother of White Sox LHP John Danks) leading off the 10th.
Mateo also allowed a couple of singles later in the inning (one bounding off his left shin) that led to the Sox scoring an unearned “insurance run” on a Logan Watkins two-out throwing error. All-in-all, Mateo was not impressive, with command issues in both innings. He just could not throw strikes consistently, and when he did throw strikes, too often Sox hitters (mostly minor leaguers, BTW) were sitting on his fastball.
The Cubs defensive plays of the day certainly would have to include the Rizzo runs-saving leaping catch in the 7th, but there was also a sliding catch of a line-drive by LF Jeff Baker in the left-center alley that would have made Reed Johnson proud.
While one squad of Cubs was losing to the White Sox in Mesa, the other squad defeated the Texas Rangers 3-2 in Las Vegas, thanks to a Joe Mather 9th inning solo HR. I was not at that game, but it appears that Chris Volstad had another fine outing, allowing one run on four hits and no walks in four innings of work, with three strikeouts, and a 6/3 GO/FO.
The Cubs travel to Peoria tomorrow, where they will face the Seattle Mariners.