Travis Buck homered to key a three-run 9th, as an Oakland A's split squad defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-2 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny & breezy Mesa, Arizona, this afternoon.
Carlos Zambrano got the start for the Cubs and went 6+ innings (85 pitches - 54 strikes), allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, one walk, and a HBP, while striking out six (3/9 GO/FO).
The A's scored one run in the top of the 1st when Coco Crisp led-off with an infield single into the hole between 2nd & 3rd (as shortstop Ryan Theriot "showed-off" his below-average arm), ex-Cub Eric Patterson walked, and Eric Chavez reached base on a FC. with Crisp advancing to 3rd. Kevin Kouzmanoff then hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Crisp (although Kosuke Fukudome's throw from RF beat Crisp to the plate, and it looked like Crisp was tagged out by catcher Geovany Soto).
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the 2nd against A's starter LHP Dallas Braden, when Marlon Byrd led-off with a HR to the base of the scoreboard beyond the LF fence. Alfonso Soriano then hammered a double into the right-centerfield alley, and Jeff Baker roped a double of the LF fence to score Soriano. But that's all the Cubs could get in the inning, as Geovany Soto, Carlos Zambrano, and Ryan Theriot grounded out, leaving Baker stranded in scoring position.
Going into the 4th inning, Zambrano had retired nine of ten batters, and he should have retired the lead-off hitter in the 4th, too, except a back-pedaling Ryan Theriot dropped a pop-up in short left (a play Alfonso Soriano should have made), allowing the hitter (Kevin Kouzmanoff) to reach 2nd base on the E-6. Travis Buck followed with an RBI single (unearned run), but then Zambrano followed the Buck hit by retiring the next nine men in a row.
The Cubs threatened to score in the bottom of the 6th, as Derrek Lee walked and Aramis Ramirez lined a single with no outs. But then Marlon Byrd hit into a 5-4 FC, And Alfonso Soriano banged into an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP, leaving D-Lee stranded at 3rd.
Zambrano went back to the mound to start the 7th, but was removed after hitting the lead-off hitter with a pitch. Rookie LHP James Russell then entered the game and retired three in a row (F-7, Kc, and 4-3).
Jeff Samardzija threw a scoreless 8th (14 pitches - only 5 strikes), walking one, and having a lot of difficulty throwing strikes (as he has pretty much all Spring). But somehow he managed to get outs (5-3, P-4, F-9) despite pitching from behind in the count against every hitter he faced.
The Cubs threatened again in the bottom of the 8th, as Kosuke Fukudome roped a lead-off double into the right-field corner against A's LHRP Brad Kilby. Micah Hoffpauir walked, and Sam Fuld dropped a picture-perfect 5-4 sacrifice bunt, putting runners at 2nd & 3rd with one out. With a left-hander on the mound, Manager Lou Piniella chose to play the game like it mattered, and sent Kevin Millar up to the plate to pinch-hit for Chad Tracy. With the infield pulled-in for a play at the plate, Millar hit a pop-up into short CF that looked like it might fall in front of the centerfielder, when shortstop Cliff Pennington made a fine running catch, and threw out Fukudome trying to score from 3rd.
Carlos Marmol came into the game in the top of the 9th with the score tied 2-2, and immediately surrendered a home run over the right-field fence to Travis Buck, before hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch. Then with Taylor on the move, Landon Powell lined a single to right, sending Taylor to 3rd. Marmol then got what appeared to be a DP ground-ball to 2nd baseman Jeff Baker, except the transfer between Baker and shortstop Andres Blanco did not go smoothly, and Cliff Pennington reached base, with Taylor scoring from 3rd. After Pennington stole 2nd base, Shane Peterson lined an RBI single to score Penington from 2nd, and that was that for Marmol (16 pitches - 9 strikes, allowing three runs on three hits, a HBP and a HR).
RHP Justin Berg was brought in to "mop up," and got a "strike 'em out/throw 'em out" to end the inning.
The Cubs got the tying run to plate in the bottom of the 9th against RHRP Fernando Hernandez, as Jeff Baker drew a one-out walk and advanced to 2nd base when Andres Blanco lined an 0-2 pitch into left-field for a single. But with Tyler Colvin on deck, Chris Robinson grounded weakly into a 1-6-3 DP to end the game with a whimper.
The Cubs host the San Diego Padres at HoHoKam Park tomorrow.