Z Kids Are Alright – Cubs 8 Diamondbacks 7

Game Two – Cubs 8 Diamondbacks 7
WP – Justin Berg (1-0) LP – Esmerling Vasquez (0-1) Save – None

wflag.jpgFriday afternoon at HoHoKam Park could have been a look into the future of the Chicago Cubs. Three of the Cubs’ last four number one draft picks were in the starting lineup along with top prospect Starlin Castro … and the young Cubs did not disappoint.

Brett Jackson (1-for-1 with a triple, a run scored, hit by a pitch and two walks), Josh Vitters (2-for-4 with two runs scored) and Tyler Colvin (2-for-3 with a double and two RBI) held their own against a Diamondbacks lineup that featured a majority of their everyday players.

Starlin Castro continued to impress and turned in a pair of hits, including a ground rule double, in four trips to the plate. Castro played a solid, but not spectacular short while showing off his speed on the bases once again.

Brad Snyder (2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and two RBI) delivered the game winner in the bottom of the ninth. A walk-off two run double off the batter’s eye in center that just missed leaving the park. Snyder scored a run in the Cubs’ two-run eighth that helped tie the game.

While it is just Spring Training, it is good to see the kids play to their hype.

Carlos Zambrano started the game and was very sharp in his first action of the spring. Zambrano tossed two perfect innings with a strikeout. Big Z kept the ball down, inducing four groundball outs and threw 28 pitches, 18 for strikes.

Casey Coleman took over for Zambrano in the third. Other than a long double by Chris Young, Coleman’s spring debut was a success. Coleman hit his spots, featured a very good change up and retired six of the seven batters he faced in his two innings of work.

It is always a good day when the Cubs win a ballgame, no matter if it counts or not.

Carlos Zambrano took his intensity from the bullpen to the field and threw strikes on Friday afternoon. Zambrano did not try to blow any of the D’Backs’ hitters away. He appeared to be throwing to contact. Zambrano retired the first three batters he faced on infield grounders … and sawed off Justin Upton’s bat on a nice inside fastball to end the first inning.

Carlos Zambrano went about his business, got his work in and turned the game over to the pen.

Casey Coleman lived up to his reputation on Friday. Reports have raved about Coleman’s command and for one day in Mesa, he showed off his ability to consistently hit his spots.

Coleman threw only 13 pitches in the third, nine went for strikes. He threw a good changeup that confused Chris Young on a 2-1 pitch before serving up a double on his next offering. Coleman went back to work and retired Tony Abreu on a lineout to short.

Casey Coleman retired the heart of the D’Backs lineup in order in the fourth on 14 pitches, eight for strikes. Gerardo Parra struck out swinging. Justin Upton flied out to right and Adam LaRoche grounded out to first.

After Casey Coleman, the Cubs’ pitching did not look good.

Jeff Stevens struck out the side in the fifth (Mark Reynolds, Chris Snyder and Ryan Roberts) on just 15 pitches. But an Arizona-double by Drew Macias (Brett Jackson lost the ball in the sun and it went for a double) and an error by Matt Camp unraveled Stevens.

One of Jeff Stevens’ problems last season was pitching with runners on base … and it continued on Friday. After Matt Camp’s error, Stevens was not the same pitcher.

Tony Abreu singled to left past a diving Starlin Castro. Macias scored, 4-1 Cubs. Gerardo Parra walked (Tyler Colvin dove into the stands after a foul ball during Parra’s at bat) to load the bases with no outs.

Justin Upton gave the D’Backs a 5-4 lead with a grand slam over the wall in left center.

Stevens faced two more batters, retired both and was lifted for John Gaub after 1 2/3 innings of work. Stevens threw 27 pitches in the sixth, 15 for strikes.

John Gaub retired the only batter he faced in the sixth to end the inning (four pitches, two for strikes).

Gaub took the hill in the seventh. Other than the long home run by Ryan Roberts, Gaub pitched rather well. He hit his spots and featured a good fastball … especially from the left side. Gaub gave up a single to Cole Gillespie but struck out a pair on 28 pitches, 19 for strikes.

Marcos Mateo got in an inning of work. He struggled with his command and did not hit his spots. When he threw strikes, Mateo’s fastball popped Chris Robinson’s mit. When he didn’t, Mateo gave Robinson a workout behind the plate.

With Angel Guzman’s season in question and Jeff Gray on the shelf, the Cubs need Justin Berg to step up … and he struggled on Friday afternoon with his command. Berg gave up the go ahead home run to Cole Gillespie after falling behind in the count 2-0. Berg did not fool any of the D’Backs’ hitters and threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes, in his inning of work.

The Cubs need help in the pen … both Jeff Stevens and Justin Berg figure into their plans and must get back to work after their performances on Friday.

The young Cubs’ lineup was very quiet against Dan Haren. There aren’t too many proven Major League hitters that have success against Haren … much less minor league ballplayers.

The Cubs’ first hit did not come until the fourth inning … another ringing double by Tyler Colvin. Colvin squared up on another ball. He lined a 1-2 pitch from Wes Roemer into right … the ball ended up in the Cubs’ pen, a ground rule double.

The Cubs finally broke through in the fifth against former Cub, Aaron Heilman.

Heilman, was Aaron Heilman on Friday afternoon. Josh Vitters singled to right center to start the inning. Brett Jackson followed with a triple off the wall in center. Vitters scored easily. Mike Quade held up Jackson at third … there is a good chance he would have scored. Jackson showed off his speed and power in the same at bat.

Koyie Hill greeted Heilman with a single that plated Jackson with the Cubs’ second run.

After Jeff Stevens struck out on his third failed bunt attempt, Starlin Castro broke his bat and blooped a single into right. Jeff Baker walked to load the bases.

Tyler Colvin greeted his former teammate with a hard single through the hole at second. Hill and Castro (great speed on the bases) scored, 4-0 Cubs. Kevin Millar hit what appeared to be a sac fly to center but Gerardo Parra threw a perfect strike to the plate. Baker was out … on not a close play to end the inning.

Clay Zavada took over in the eighth for the D’Backs … and the Cubs’ offense went back to work.

Brad Snyder started the two-run rally with a single to right (for the record, Zavada is a lefty, so is Snyder). Josh Vitters reached on a broken bat single to left center. Brett Jackson was hit on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.

Chris Robinson came through with a single to left on a 2-1 pitch. Snyder scored and cut the D’Backs lead to 6-5. With the bases loaded and one out, James Adduci lined out to right … Adduci hit a rocket, Vitters misread the play and was not able to score.

Darwin Barney worked a bases loaded walk that forced in Vitters to tie the game at six.

Matt Camp struck out on a check swing to end the inning.

With the Cubs down by one, Bobby Scales led off the ninth … and was hit on the first pitch by Vasquez. Micah Hoffpauir singled to right. With runners on first and second with no outs, Brad Snyder stepped in.

Lou Piniella went to his bench after the first pitch to Snyder. He put in Sam Fuld to run for Hoffpauir at first. Snyder worked the count to 3-2 before ripping a ball of the batter’s eye in center … Scales scored to tie and Fuld to win.

The young Cubs celebrated around the mound like it was a regular season game.

Box Score from MLB.com

Video from Game Two


Marlon Byrd, Derrek Lee, Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto


Carlos Zambrano


Jeff Stevens


John Gaub

Carlos Silva is scheduled to face the White Sox at HoHoKam on Saturday afternoon. WGN will televise the game … the first of the spring.

Quote of the Day

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." - Plato
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