Spring Training Game One – Cubs 7 A’s 15
WP – Joey Devine (1-0) LP – Matt Garza (0-1) Save – None
The Cubs Cactus League opener didn’t go exactly the way Mike Quade had hoped. On a cold, windy day in Mesa, the Cubs jumped out to an early lead behind Carlos Zambrano but the Cubs played from behind from the fourth inning on.
The offense looked sharp in the first inning and chased Trevor Cahill from the game. Kosuke Fukudome (0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored) led off with a walk and advanced to third on a bloop single to right by Starlin Castro (2-for-3 with a run scored). Marlon Byrd (2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI) drove in the first run of the spring with a solid single to right field. Aramis Ramirez (1-for-3 with a RBI) plated Castro with a single to center. After Carlos Pena (0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored) grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice, Alfonso Soriano (3-for-3 with a double and two RBI) ripped a double into the left field corner. Byrd and Pena scored, 4-0 Cubs … that would end up being the bulk of the highlights for Q’s crew.
Alfonso Soriano looked very comfortable at the plate. Soriano was patient and did not walk to the plate swinging.
Carlos Zambrano was incredibly sharp in his two innings of work but the same could not be said for Matt Garza.
Z faced the minimum in his two innings. He stuck out the first two batters he faced and retired the side in order on just nine pitches in the first. Zambrano walked Kurt Suzuki to start the second. Z kept the ball down to Andy LaRoche and induced a 4-6-3 double play, that was nicely turned by DeWitt and Castro. Z retired Matt Carson to end his day.
Matt Garza, and the rest of the Cubs pitchers with the exception of Carlos Marmol, did not fare as well as Zambrano. Garza gave up the A’s first two hits of the game in the third then walked the bases loaded ahead of Coco Crisp. Crisp deposited a 0-1 pitch into the A’s bullpen beyond the right field wall to tie the game. Garza gave up another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Eric Sogard. Garza’s line for Sunday: five runs on five hits, a walk, a strikeout and one big grand slam.
The rest of the Cubs staff was shaky at best with the exception of Carlos Marmol. Justin Berg, who figures to be on the outside looking in when the season begins, was horrible. Berg gave up seven runs, all earned, on six hits in a third of an inning of work.
The Cubs showed signs of good baseball Sunday but for the most part the team looked as cold in all three phases as the weather they were playing in. It was great to be at a baseball park again. Sunday was a little different from previous spring openers. Due to the weather, the Cubs were not practicing on the backfields at HoHoKam and did not take batting practice on the big field prior to game time. The weather was very cool and was very reminiscent of Opening Days at Wrigley Field.
The weather and a Sunday game also impacted the attendance, which was an incredibly low 6,892.
Spring Training isn’t about wins or losses, it is about getting ready for the regular season. Many of the regulars looked good at the plate and in the field but the same cannot be said for several of the backups and relief pitchers.
After Carlos Zambrano left the game up 4-0, Matt Garza took over and promptly gave up the A’s first two hits of the game. Garza struggled in his first inning of work. He just missed his spots, which caused him to fall behind. On a day the wind was blowing out, Garza walked the bases loaded then served up a 0-1 pitch to Coco Crisp that ended up in the A’s bullpen beyond the right field wall. Garza appeared to be only throwing fastballs and changeups and labored through a 27-pitch third inning, 18 for strikes.
Garza took the mound in the fourth and pitched a little better despite giving up another run. Matt Carson led off the inning with a double off the batter’s eye in center. After a groundout to second by Landon Powell advanced Carson to third, Eric Sogard hit a sacrifice fly to left center that gave the A’s a 5-4 lead … and they never looked back.
Garza ended up throwing 14 pitches in the fourth, nine for strikes.
It got ugly and very sloppy after Garza left the game. Not only was the pitching bad but the defense committed three errors (one by Blake DeWitt and two by Colvin), and there could have been more credited to the Cubs. Tyler Colvin made several strong throws from right but overran a couple of balls and bobbled one. The outfielders missed the cut off man on several occasions and threw to the wrong base more than once. As for the infield, several throws pulled Carlos Pena, Blake DeWitt and Bryan LaHair off the bag. To say the Cubs’ defense needs work, would be an understatement.
Jeff Samardzija took over in the fifth and struggled in his inning of work. Samardzija gave up a run on two hits and threw 13 pitches, seven for strikes. Samardzija battled command issues and fell behind 1-0 to each batter he faced.
Mike Quade started making wholesale changes in the sixth. Bryan LaHair (1B), Max Ramirez (C), Jeff Baker (3B), Brett Jackson (LF) and Carlos Marmol came into the game. Marmol looked good. He gave up a leadoff double off the wall in left but struck out one of the four batters he faced and did not allow a run to score. Marmol threw 14 pitches, eight for strikes.
After Marmol left, the lack of quality depth in the Cubs bullpen was on display. Justin Berg, Thomas Diamond, John Grabow and Marcos Mateo had little to no command and the A’s scored nine runs over the last three innings.
Justin Berg lasted just a third of an inning and while his defense did not help him, he was all over the place. Berg allowed seven runs on six hits on 29 pitches, only 10 for strikes. Berg gave Max Ramirez a workout behind the plate. Thomas Diamond came in and got the last two outs in the sixth but allowed two inherited runners to score.
The Cubs are looking for John Grabow to be a big part of the bullpen this season … but on Sunday he looked like the Grabow from a year ago. Grabow, like Berg, did not get any help from his defense, but he threw almost as many balls (10) as strikes (13). Fernando Perez slipped in center and misplayed a ball into a triple that allowed one of the two runs that was credited to Grabow to score.
Marcos Mateo threw 17 pitches in the ninth, 10 for strikes. Mateo walked a batter and struck out one and like those before him he missed his spots in his first outing of the spring.
The Cubs ‘A’ team played better than the end result. Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Marmol and Carlos Pena were the highlights on a day the team as a whole struggled on the field.
The Cubs face the Brewers for the first time in 2011 Monday at HoHoKam. Randy Wells is slated to get the start.