The 5th Spot or Bust

Spring Training Game Twenty-Five – Cubs 3 Giants 2
WP – Wade Miller (2-0) LP – Barry Zito (2-2) Save – Will Ohman (1)

wflag.jpg The Cubs swept the home and home series with the Giants on Saturday with Wade Miller having his best outing as a Cub. Miller gave up just 3 hits, all singles, in 5 innings of shut out baseball, struck out 5, did not allow a walk and added a double of his own. Miller struck out Omar Vizquel and Barry Bonds looking in the 1st inning and kept the Giants guessing all day. Angel Guzman was very solid in relief of Miller and allowed the only two Giant runs of the day.

Aramis Ramirez hit his 5th homer of the spring off Barry Zito in the 2nd inning, the only run the Cubs scored off of the southpaw in his 4 innings of work. Ryan Theriot tripled and scored in the 6th. The difference in the game was a Tomas Perez single that scored Derrek Lee in the 8th after Lee’s double to center was lost in the sun.

Wade Miller had the best outing of the spring of any other Cub pitcher and to say he was masterful would be an understatement. Miller hit his spots with great location and was ahead in the count on close to half of the batters he faced. Miller struck out Bonds twice and Barry was very unhappy with the called third strike on a 3-2 count in the 1st inning (it appeared to be a strike on the outer part of the plate). Miller was registering his fastball in the low 90’s in the 1st inning (Len Kasper addressed the “hot gun” during Prior’s outing and he questioned the readings he was seeing with Miller on the mound. Kasper said it would probably be more accurate to say Miller was throwing in the high 80’s). In the 2nd inning Miller was throwing in the mid to high 80’s, topping out at 89 MPH (Kasper addressed the gun and said the readings were more accurate than they were in the 1st inning). He had a very good over hand curve and changeup. After retiring the Giants in order in the 1st, he retired the first two he faced in the 2nd before giving up a single to right off the bat of Todd Linden.

The Giants went in order in the 3rd and Miller had his command of his curve ball. He faced just one over the minimum in the first three innings. In the 4th, Miller pitched from behind in the count to 3 of the 4 batters he faced. Omar Vizquel lead off the inning with a ground out to Derrek Lee after being ahead in the count 3-0. Lee made another fine defensive play and threw to Miller covering the bag. Miller struck out two in the inning and Bonds for the second time, on a check swing….Miller hit the outside corner, it was very similar to the location he struck out Bonds in the 1st inning. Miller gave up just a single to Ryan Klesko in the inning.

The 5th and final inning for Miller was just as solid as the previous four. Todd Linden singled to start the inning (he had two of the three Giants hits on the day against Miller). Miller still showed good command with his curve and a very good changeup. Miller started a 1-6-3 double play to erase Linden’s single. He was very efficient in the 5th and took just one pitch to end the inning.

Miller faced just two over the minimum in the 5 innings he pitched and threw first pitch strikes to eight of seventeen batters.

Despite giving up the only two runs of the day, Angel Guzman threw the ball extremely well. The 2 runs came off of 4 hits in 3 1/3 with 4 strikeouts and showed very good command with his breaking ball….and threw arguably his best curve ball in a Cubs’ uniform. Guzman threw in the mid 90’s and was helped out by his defense. Mark Sweeney doubled to lead off the 6th to left center, Soriano picked up the ball at the base of the wall, threw it to Izturis who gunned it to Tomas Perez to cut down Sweeney at 3rd. The two runs off of Guzman came in the 8th inning. Kevin Frandsen hit a bloop single that fell in between Murton and Izturis in shallow left. Mark Sweeney then crushed a 400+ foot home run over the right field wall.

Will Ohman recorded the final two outs in the 9th for the save. Cubs pitching did not give up a single free pass on the afternoon.

Aramis Ramirez home run off of Zito in the 2nd was a “no-doubter”. Ryan Theriot made the start in left field and was 1-4 with a triple and a run scored; he also made a nice running catch to end the 2nd inning in left. Cliff Floyd started in right against the lefty Zito. Floyd was hitless on the day in three trips. Derrek Lee did hit a double (the ball was lost in the sun in center by Todd Linden, the ball hit his glove, was originally scored as an error but was changed). After Lee’s double, Angel Pagan almost beat out a bunt that advanced Lee to 3rd and he scored on Tomas Perez single to right. Perez RBI single turned out to be the game winner as it appears Perez, Pagan and Ronny Cedeno are competing for the last spot on the roster.

Wade Miller should have earned the final spot in the rotation with his performance on Saturday. Mark Prior is scheduled to start against the Rockies on Wednesday but at this point Miller is the clear favorite. While Prior appears to be on the right track back, after his last start, Miller appears to be ready to start the season….it is a good problem for Lou Piniella and his staff to have.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs and Ted Lilly will face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday at HoHoKam. This is the first of a home-and-home with both teams agreeing to use the designated hitter for both games. Cliff Floyd will be the Cubs DH against Ervin Santana.

Quote of the Day

"What scares me is what scares you. We're all afraid of the same things." - John Carpenter

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