Game Four – Cubs 13 White Sox 0
WP – Neal Cotts (1-0) LP – Ehren Wasserman (0-1) Save – None
Spring Training games are fun to win, especially against the White Sox, but it is the individual performances and tune-ups that are more important during the exhibition season. Several of the players Lou Piniella figures to depend on in the upcoming season played against the Sox on Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd of 13,010 at HoHoKam Park….and none was more impressive than Aaron Heilman.
After much criticism of the Cubs’ front office, Aaron Heilman made his Cub and pitched two impressive innings…just reading the box score will not due his performance justice. Heilman worked fast, seemed to find a solid rhythm and struck out four of the seven batters he faced on 23 pitches, 18 for strikes.
Aramis Ramirez turned in a great day defensively despite his 0-for-3 at the plate. Ramirez made a diving stop on a ball hit down the line by Carlos Quentin that took away extra bases in the first inning. Derrek Lee hit the ball hard in his three trips to the plate and the wind knocked down what should have been his first home run of the spring.
Lou Piniella’s crew improved to 4-0 on the spring, in large part to a 9-run seventh inning, but the performances turned out by several of the regulars on Saturday were the true highlights…. Aaron Heilman appeared extremely focused in pre-game warm-ups and that carried over to the game. After striking out Brent Lillibridge to start the game, A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single to left on a 1-0 pitch. Aramis Ramirez saved a double down the line off the bat of Carlos Quentin. Ramirez made a diving stop, got to his feet and threw a strike to Derrek Lee…Pierzynski advanced to second on the play.
Heilman threw strike one to Jim Thome, quickly got ahead 1-2 then struck out the slugger swinging to end the inning. Heilman mixed his pitches in the first inning and retired the Sox on just 10 pitches, eight for strikes.
Aramis Ramirez made a nice pick on a short-hop to start the second to retire Jermaine Dye. Heilman then struck out Alexei Ramirez swinging on three pitches. Former Cub farmhand Josh Kroeger fell behind 0-2, evened the count to 2-2 before becoming Heilman’s fourth strikeout. Heilman threw 13 pitches in the second, 10 for strikes.
Kevin Gregg followed Heilman and his Cub debut was not as impressive. Gregg fell behind the first two hitters he faced 2-0. Josh Fields flied out to Joey Gathright in deep center while Dewayne Wise reached on a ground rule double…the ball bounced over the wall in center just to the right of the batters’ eye.
Gregg threw 18 pitches in his inning of work, 12 for strikes but threw a first pitch strike to only one of the four batters he faced.
Neal Cotts took over for Gregg in the fourth…and not much has changed for Neal Cotts. He was inconsistent at best and threw 21 pitches, 10 for strikes. Cotts missed his spots and the hit he gave up was to Jim Thome…a double to left.
David Patton made his second appearance of the spring in the fifth. After an extremely wild bullpen session, Patton was equally impressive on the mound. Patton threw strikes and appeared a lot more confident than in his first outing.
Patton retired the Sox in order in the fifth on just nine pitches, seven for strikes and stayed in for the sixth.
Patton worked around an error by Luis Rivas at third that allowed Carlos Quentin to reach to start the inning. He struck out Jim Thome swinging and after allowing a single to left to Jermaine Dye, struck out Alexei Ramirez on a ball in the dirt to end the inning.
Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen pulled all of their starters by the seventh but that did not stop Piniella from arguing with the home plate umpire. Piniella did not like a call, voiced his displeasure and as he was walking back to the dugout giggling, received a standing ovation from the crowd….just Lou being Lou.
Ken Kadokura, Jason Waddell and Esmailin Caridad pitched the last three innings. Caridad struck out Dewayne Wise to end the game.
The Cubs offense was very quiet until the fifth inning. Jeff Marquez did not surrender a hit in his two innings and Matt Thornton allowed just a walk in his inning of work.
Mike Fontenot finally broke through against Ehren Wasserman with two outs in the fourth. Brad Snyder followed with a single to right. With runners on first and third with two outs, Koyie Hill hit a double of the top of the wall in right that plated Fontenot and Snyder. Joey Gathright flied out to left to end the inning.
Octavio Dotel started the fifth and gave up a 1-out single to Aaron Miles. Derrek Lee followed with a bloop single to right center that Jermaine Dye could not make a play on…he dove but came up empty.
Aramis Ramirez followed and grounded out to third. Fields forced Lee at second but the throw to first by Lillibridge was off the mark. Ramirez reached and Miles scored.
Bobby Scales drove in Fox with a single to center. Brad Snyder followed with a towering home run to right center…the Cubs second grand slam of the spring put the game away.
Welington Castillo walked and Sam Fuld singled to right. Doug Deeds singled to center to load the bases. Brad Salmon replaced Russell and gave up a 2-run single to Andres Blanco…Castillo and Fuld scored.
After a fly out by Jake Fox and a strikeout by Steve Clevenger, Luis Rivas walked to reload the bases. Bobby Scales then drove in a pair with a single to right center…his second run-producing-hit of the inning. Brad Snyder flied out to deep right center to end the inning.
The Cubs’ fans in attendance were very happy as they left HoHoKam Park singing ‘Go Cubs Go‘.
Beating the White Sox is always good, but the individual performances turned in on Saturday were better.
The Cubs will travel to Peoria on Sunday to take on the Padres. Ryan Dempster is scheduled to face Jake Peavy.
Aaron Heilman Warm-up
Aaron Heilman Bullpen Session
The Cubs Take the Field