Problemz with Z Pen? – Cubs 8 A’s 8

Game Thirty-Six – Cubs 8 A’s 8 – 9 innings

For the second time this week Lou Piniella’s crew played to an 8-8 tie on the road in Arizona. The Cubs jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third inning after Geovany Soto’s first home run of the game…a grand slam to center off of Dallas Braden. Soto was 2-for-2 on the afternoon with two home runs, five RBI and a walk. A possible Cubs’ everyday lineup more than outplayed the team the A’s will likely run out on Opening Day.

Carlos Zambrano put together a decent outing and worked around frustration as well as some wildness in the second inning. When Z departed with one out in the fourth, the Cubs were up 6-1.

Lou Piniella emptied his bench and fielded a squad of mostly minor leaguers as the game wore on. By the end ninth inning, Aaron Miles was the only starter remaining and Micah Hoffpauir, Joey Gathright and Koyie Hill were the only position players that will begin the season on the big league roster.

Spring Training games do not count, in five days no one will remember how many wins and losses their team had in the exhibition season. However, the regular season is just around the corner and the performances turned in by Luis Vizcaino and Neal Cotts on Wednesday is cause for concern.

An error by Micah Hoffpauir led to A’s tying the game off Jeff Samardzija in the ninth but it was the two runs allowed by Luis Vizcaino and the three runs allowed to minor leaguers by Neal Cotts that must have not set too well with their skipper.

Travis Buck hit a two-run homer off Vizcaino in the fourth, which cut the Cubs lead to 6-3. After Soto’s second home run and a tack on run in the seventh, Cotts took the mound in the eighth with an 8-4 lead. Cotts was hit very hard and gave up three runs on five hits…the good news, the three outs he recorded were strikeouts.

Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry still have answers to find to the questions in the pen…and it could take losing games that count before they are forced to add reliable arms that can get the ball to Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg with a lead.

The shaky, at best, Cubs defense over the last three innings did not help. Angel Guzman gave up an unearned run in the seventh and Micah Hoffpauir’s error opened the door for the A’s to tie the game. Major League pitchers, especially relievers, have to work around bad defensive play without allowing runs to score. Excuses no longer exist…

Carlos Zambrano breezed through the first inning. He retired the A’s in order with two fly outs and a groundout. Zambrano walked Matt Holliday to start the second and struggled with his command, and himself, the entire inning…Soto had to make two trips to the mound.

A wild pitch, with Eric Chavez at the plate, allowed Holliday to advance to second. Chavez flied out and Zambrano walked Jack Cust on four pitches. Zambrano reached back and struck out Kurt Suzuki looking but hit Travis Buck to load the bases…on a 0-2 pitch.

Mark Ellis flied out to center on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

The lone run Zambrano allowed came in the third inning. Orlando Cabrera recorded the A’s first hit, a single to left. Jason Giambi grounded out to second, Cabrera advanced to second and scored on a single to center by Matt Holliday.

Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a run scored) started the big 6-run inning with a double down the left field line. Aaron Miles (0-for-3 with a walk) sacrificed him to third. Derrek Lee (2-for-4 with a run scored, a RBI and a double) followed with a single to left center, Soriano scored, 1-0 Cubs.

Milton Bradley (0-for-2 with a walk) walked ahead of a single by Aramis Ramirez (2-for-3 with a run scored) that loaded the bases. Dallas Braden then hit Reed Johnson to force in Lee with the Cubs second run.

With the bases loaded and one-out, Geovany Soto cleared them with one big swing…6-0 Cubs. Ryan Theriot (2-for-3) followed with a bloop single but after Zambrano flied out, Theriot was picked off first for the second time in as many days to end the inningwith Soriano at the plate.

Box Score from MLB.com

The Cubs and Ryan Dempster play their last game of the exhibition season in Arizona against the Indians on Thursday afternoon. The game starts an hour earlier at 2:05pm C.T. with a very familiar face in Anthony Reyes expected to go for Cleveland.

After Thursday’s game, the Cubs will make their way to the Big Apple for two games at new Yankee Stadium starting on Friday night.

Quote of the Day

"The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare." - Bobby Knight
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