Spring Training Game Eighteen – Cubs 0 Angels (ss) 4
WP – John Lackey (2-0) LP – Carlos Zambrano (1-1)
The Cubs saw first hand on Sunday what a good defense means to a ball team. The Cubs hit the ball hard against John Lackey but managed just 2 hits. The Angels’ defense played a solid game, to say the least, and robbed the Cubs of several extra base hits….namely a would be home run by Matt Murton in the 5th. John Lackey retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced. The Cubs offense managed just 3 base runners all day against Angel pitching….2 singles and a walk.
Carlos Zambrano gave up 4 runs on 9 hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out 4, hit a batter and did not give up a walk. The bases clearing triple in the 2nd by Chone Figgins might have been prevented with Derrek Lee at 1st base, the ball appeared playable but out of the reach of a diving Daryle Ward. Zambrano did not throw badly, it was just one of those days. Cubs pitching did not allow a walk on the afternoon, threw strikes and were helped by a couple of fine plays by Ryan Theriot at 2nd base. With Figgins on 3rd after the triple in the 2nd, the infield was in and Theriot made a good play on a ball off the bat of Gary Matthews, Jr. and threw out Figgins at the plate.
Alfonso Soriano had a solid day in center and made a couple of plays that most would consider routine for a centerfielder, but with Soriano “learning on the job” sometimes routine plays can be challenging. He cut a ball off in left center in the 6th and made a strong throw back to 2nd base. Felix Pie started the game in right and was credited with a throwing error in the 6th. Jeff Mathis singled to right and Pie attempted to throw out Howie Kendrick at 3rd. The throw was strong but late, Ramirez could not handle it and Mathis advanced to 2nd. The throw from Pie was right on the mark….one bounce.
Scott Eyre was very good in relief of Zambrano with 2 outs in the 6th. Eyre retired Figgins on a comebacker to the mound that prevented 2 runs from scoring. He gave up just 1 hit in an inning and a third of relief. Hector Almonte (stats from the Baseball Cube) threw the 8th inning and set the Angels down in order. Almonte has not pitched in the majors since 2003 (Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos) and last pitched in the Braves organization in 2005.
The offense was dominated by Angel pitching. John Lackey was unhittable and as mentioned, his defense helped him out all afternoon. Francisco Rodriguez pitched the 7th inning and was dominating. Darren Oliver pitched the 8th and 9th and gave up just a walk to Theriot. Alfonso Soriano had a couple of fine at bats and the 10-pitch at bat in the 6th ended with a long fly out to the warning track in right field. The “old aggressiveness” was on display in the 8th as Darren Oliver retired Matt Murton (ground out to short) and Felix Pie (pop out to left) on just 2 pitches.
Every team will have games like the one the Cubs had on Sunday once the regular season starts. To be shutout in a spring training game should get under the skin of Lou Piniella regardless of the fact the game did not mean anything….but days like this will have meaning in two weeks.
Monday is split squad day, the last of the spring for the Cubs. The Cubs travel to Maryville Park to take on the Brewers. Sean Gallagher will get the start against Yovani Gillardo and Sean Marshall is scheduled to see his first Cactus League action against the Brew Crew. Wade Miller will take the hill against Ryan Feierabend and the Seattle Mariners at HoHoKam. The Cubs are expected to make the second round of cuts after Monday’s games.