Finishing with a W

Spring Training Game Thirty-Two – Cubs 4 Mariners 2
WP – Ryan Dempster (3-1) LP – Jarrod Washburn (2-2) Save – Kerry Wood (2)

wflag.jpgLou Piniella’s pitching staff made up for their poor performance on Friday night by allowing only 1 earned run in the final game of the spring. Ryan Dempster was very effective on Saturday afternoon. He allowed the only earned run on 6 hits in 4 innings with 4 strikeouts and most importantly….no walks. Michael Wuertz surrendered his first run of the exhibition season in the 5th, but it was unearned due to an error by Mike Fontenot. Sean Marshall could not retire the only 2 batters he faced but Jon Lieber and Henry Blanco kept the Mariners off the board in the 6th and set it up for the backend of the bullpen.

Carlos Marmol, Bobby Howry, Carmen Pignatiello and Kerry Wood gave up just 2 hits in the final 3 innings with a walk and 5 strikeouts. Wood put an exclamation point on his spring by striking out Charlton Jimerson to end the game.

Reed Johnson led off the game with his first home run as a Cub. Henry Blanco and Ronny Cedeno each drove in a run with singles in the 4th inning. Micah Hoffpauir scored the final run of the day in the 9th on a groundout by Mike Fontenot.

Ryan Dempster reportedly worked very hard during the off-season to put himself in position to return to the rotation. Dempster’s efforts paid off and he will start the 3rd game of the year. Dempster at times this spring looked very comfortable and confident on the mound. The key to success for Ryan Dempster, like all pitchers, is to throw strikes and stay ahead in the count. And on Saturday, he did just that.

Dempster gave up only an infield single in the 1st and threw a total of 14 pitches, 9 for strikes. In the 2nd, Dempster worked around hitting Brad Wilkerson and giving up a bloop single to Jamie Burke. He threw just 18 pitches, 14 for strikes.

Although the only run Dempster allowed came in the 3rd, it was possibly his best inning . He showed very good command, continued to throw strikes and recorded 2 of his 4 strikeouts. Dempster was the victim of a bloop single by Ichiro to start the inning and then a solid single to left by Jose Lopez. He struck out Raul Ibanez before giving up a single to left by Richie Sexson. Ichiro scored to tie the game at 1. Dempster then retired Adrian Beltre on a ground out and struck out Michael Saunders to end the inning. Dempster threw 26 pitches, 20 for strikes. A 6-4-3 double play in the 4th helped Dempster face the minimum and end his spring on a very positive note.

The Cubs bullpen took over from that point and if not for the error by Fontenot, would not have allowed a single run. Michael Wuertz and Jon Lieber were very good in the middle innings but it was the backend that was very impressive.

Carlos Marmol was nasty, Bobby Howry located his fastball, Carmen Pignatiello should make the 25-man roster and Kerry Wood, despite walking his first batter of the spring, was just plain dominant.

Wood walked the first batter he faced to start the 9th (the first and only walk allowed by Wood this spring) and then gave up a single to Adam Moore. With runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, Wood fielded a slow hop back up the middle with his bare hand, threw a strike to Ronny Cedeno and started a 1-6-3 double play. Wood then struck out Jimerson on a nasty breaking ball in the dirt to end the game….and the spring.

Henry Blanco….or Hank White, had a great game….both in the field, but mostly behind the plate. Hopefully Geovany Soto was taking notes.

The Cubs finished the 2008 Cactus League schedule with a 15-15-2 record. Now it’s on to Opening Day….weather permitting.

Box Score from Saturday’s Game….the Spring Finale

The Cubs open the 2008 season on Monday at Wrigley Field against the Milwaukee Brewers. It will be Carlos Zambrano against Ben Sheets and the division rivalry that took a step forward last year, looks to be even more intense this season.

Are you ready?

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon