Surprising Pauir – Cubs 10 Rangers 4

Game Three – Cubs 10 Rangers 4
WP – Ted Lilly (1-0) LP – Scott Feldman (0-1) Save – None

wflag.jpgThe Cubs improved to 3-0 on the young Cactus League season on Friday in front of 5,413 behind Ted Lilly in his only tune-up before the World Baseball Classic. The Cubs offense scored seven runs in the second inning to put the exhibition game away at beautiful Surprise Stadium.

Micah Hoffpauir started his third game at a different position and provided one of the defensive gems of the game and his second home run of the spring. Mike Fontenot added his first long ball of the year and a 2-run triple. ‘Hoff-Power‘ and ‘Little Babe Ruth‘ drove in seven of the Cubs’ ten runs. Sam Fuld added a solo shot in the eighth that accounted for the Cubs’ tenth and final run.

Ted Lilly was very good in his two innings of work. Lilly struck out a pair and showed very good command and velocity. However two defensive plays helped Lilly toss the two scoreless frames.

Micah Hoffpauir robbed Josh Hamilton of at least a double with a diving stop on a ball hit down the line. Reed Johnson and Ryan Theriot turned in a textbook relay that turned a run scoring double off the bat of Jared Saltalamacchia into an out at the plate to end the second inning.

The Cubs offense continued to swing the bats and pounded out 14 hits. The Cubs 3-0 spring record is their first under Lou Piniella.

With Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano about a week behind the other pitchers, (Dempster is scheduled to start on Sunday in Peoria against Jake Peavy and the Padres. Zambrano is slated for Monday against the Diamondbacks) Ted Lilly became the first of the Cubs’ starters to take the hill in Arizona this spring. Lilly threw the ball extremely well with very good command. He made only two mistakes. He hit Frank Catalanotto on a 1-0 pitch ahead of Jared Saltalamacchia.

Saltalamacchia wisely jumped on the first offering from Lilly and scorched it over Reed Johnson’s head in straight away center. Johnson fired a perfect strike to Ryan Theriot. Theriot threw home and Geovany Soto tagged out Catalanotto to end the inning.

High-fives awaited Johnson and Theriot from their teammates as they made the way to the dugout.

Lilly mixed in fastballs with his trademark changeup and even dropped in a couple of 60 MPH curveballs for strikes. Lilly hit 86 with his fastball and was consistently in the mid 80s. He tossed 15 pitches in the first inning, 11 for strikes and nine in the second inning, five for strikes.

J.R. Mathes made his spring debut on Friday and gave up 2 runs, 1 earned, on 4 hits with a walk and three strikeouts. The unearned run came in the third after a throwing error by Ryan Theriot allowed Elvis Andrus to reach. (Theriot’s throw to Hoffpauir was high and pulled him off the bag).

Josh Hamilton drove in Andrus with a single to right center.

Mathes struck out Andruw Jones for the second out (Jones is a shell of his former self and looked awful at the plate swinging and missing on breaking ball after breaking ball). Hank Blalock walked to load the bases but Mathes retired Nelson Cruz on a pop up to Mike Fontenot in shallow right center to end the inning.

Frank Catalanotto led off the fourth with a single to right off of Mathes. Jared Saltalamacchia followed with his second double over Reed Johnson’s head (Johnson almost caught the ball, just slightly misjudged it). With runners on second and third with no outs, Joaquin Arias grounded out to Theriot at short…Catalanotto scored on the fielder’s choice.

Justin Berg was inconsistent but impressive in the fifth. Berg hit the mid 90s with his fastball and of the 24 pitches he threw, 13 were for strikes. He struck out a pair, including Andruw Jones and walked a pair but did not allow a hit.

Ed Campusano tossed a scoreless inning in the sixth but he was extremely wild and walked two batters with two outs. Campusano had little to no command and more than missed his spots.

Rocky Roquet struggled as well in the seventh. Roquet threw 20 pitches, 10 for strikes and gave up the other two Rangers’ runs. Roquet’s fastball was consistently in the low 90s and when he was on, he was lights out….of the three outs he recorded, two were strikeouts (one swinging and one looking). Roquet has the stuff to be successful at the big league level, he needs to work on his consistency.

Marcos Mateo took the mound in the eighth and was more than impressive. Mateo lit up the radar gun and showed very good command. He hit 97, consistently in the mid 90s with his fastball. His changeup was in the low 90s and his slider in the upper 80s with a lot of break. He may look like his cousin on the mound (former Cub Juan Mateo) but his slider is more like Carlos Marmol’s. Mateo threw 13 pitches, eight for strikes and he ended his day by striking out Travis Metcalf on a ball in the dirt.

Jeff Stevens pitched the ninth again and looked much more comfortable than he did on Wednesday. Stevens was consistently in the low 90s with his fastball and even broke off a couple of beautiful curveballs for strikes in the low 70s. The final two outs for Stevens…two swinging strikeouts.

The Cubs batted around in the 7-run second inning and Doug Deeds recorded two hits in the inning. Deeds tripled to start the frame and scored on an infield single up the middle by Luis Rivas. So Taguchi reached on a fielding error by second baseman German Duran.

Ryan Theriot followed with a single to right that loaded the bases.

Reed Johnson chopped a ball over the mound that resulted in a 6-3 fielder’s choice…and Rivas scoring the Cubs’ second run.

Micah Hoffpauir stepped in and after just missing a home run on a 1-2 pitch hit a no-doubter over the wall in right. Beyond the wall in right at Surprise Stadium is a ‘Home Run Party Deck‘ and Hoffpauir’s blast traveled the 379 feet and then some…it landed on the party deck.

Geovany Soto reached on a 1-out single and scored on Mike Fontenot’s home run to right. Fontenot’s was almost as far as Hoffpauir’s…but not quite.

The Cubs tacked on to their lead in the sixth. Reed Johnson was hit by Omar Poveda to start the inning. Sam Fuld ran for him and advanced to second on a groundout by Hoffpauir. Mark Johnson worked a 2-out walk and both Fuld and Johnson scored on a triple off the wall in left center by Mike Fontenot.

For the Cubs to three-peat as Central Division Champions they will need contributions like the ones they received on Friday from Mike Fontenot and Micah Hoffpauir. Granted it is only Spring Training but it is good seeing those two swing the bat the way they are.

The Cubs return to HoHoKam on Saturday to face the White Sox for the first time. Aaron Heilman is scheduled to make the start against Jeff Marquez with Aramis Ramirez expected to be the Cubs’ DH.

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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