Okay, we’re out of March Madness for a few days and we only have one game to concentrate on today. Technically this is game #19, but only day 16 of spring training with some split squad silliness thrown in there. It wasn’t a particularly good one by either side’s starting pitchers, but tons of fun if you like offense. And yay for the Mariners’ park in Peoria (the one in AZ) having Pitchf/x info! Let’s check it out as the Cubs started fast, slowed down, and then tacked on some insurance late to earn the victory.
The Cubs made Jason Vargas work in the first inning. Vargas only lasted two outs before he was pulled, as the Cubs batted around to put seven runs on the board. Too bad that Travis Wood had his own issues, going 2+ innings and giving all those runs back. We don’t think it was a terrible trade at the time it was made, but it’s obvious that Travis has some serious work to do and he’ll likely do it in Iowa. By my count, aside from the three homers given up (including the one that knocked him out of the game with no outs recorded in the third inning after facing three guys in that frame), Wood gave up six well hit balls, including a deep fly ball double and one lineout with the rest being rated as “line drives”. He was hit hard and a lot of that was basically due to horrible pitch location. Check the screencap to see what I mean.
After their starters sucked it up, each team had good relief as the Cubs offense was basically shut down and Jay Jackson came in to set down the batters he faced to keep the game tied. Jay got into a bit of trouble in the fifth inning with a leadoff single and a hit batter, but Welington Castillo helped him out by picking off the lead runner at second base to get the first out. Jay then induced a double play grounder to end the inning. Well done, kid. Steve Clevenger also threw out Chone Figgins (yeah, he’s still alive) trying to steal second and Jay Jackson worked through four ultimately uneventful and scoreless innings.
Joe Mather has played all three outfield positions and both corners as of this game, so he’s channeling Mark DeRosa right now in cementing his role as the super-utility guy on the bench. David DeJesus may have a terrible looking batting average but he takes a lot of pitches and actually drove in Castillo for the go-ahead run with a sharp grounder off the second baseman’s glove. I think he’ll be okay leading off. As expected, Alfonso Soriano is cooling off a bit with no hits and a couple strikeouts, although I saw he was laying off some bad sliders on the pitchf/x and he also drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. Interestingly, Soriano was the only Cub regular to pay the entire game today. I think that could be considered a good sign.
Baserunning note: you can check the play-by-play but there were a lot of instances where guys took extra bases on what would normally have been station-to-station plays. Lots of first-to-third action with these Cubs as they try to get more aggressive. The only baserunning mistake was when Clevenger knocked in another run but was caught in between second and third to end the Cubs’ ninth. I guess you’ll take those when you’re up a few runs, but probably something they’ll talk about.
The Cubs go back to split squad silliness tomorrow before their Wednesday off-day, visiting the A’s while hosting the Rangers. Too bad Yu Darvish pitched today so the Cubs will likely miss him this spring. Bummer.