Spring Training Game Twenty-Two – Cubs 5 A’s 6
WP – Brian Fuentes (1-0) LP – Sean Marshall (0-2, BS 2) Save – None
After a much-needed day off, the Cubs cranked things back up Thursday … and unfortunately it was more of the same for Q’s crew.
The Cubs took a 5-3 lead into the ninth. Mike Quade had Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija warming in the pen while Kerry Wood completed his inning of work in the eighth. Quade sent Marshall to the hill in the ninth to pick up the Spring Training save for Ryan Dempster.
Marshall struggled but the inning began with another error by the Cubs defense. Marshall fell behind Eric Sogard 3-1 before Sogard hit a fly into left. Fernando Perez, who replaced Alfonso Soriano, had the ball hit and fall out of his glove. Sogard ended up on second on the two-base error and scored on the first four hits off Sean Marshall.
After Andy LaRoche tied the game with a single to center, Conor Jackson sent the A’s home with a double to left that plated Ryan Sweeney with the game winner.
Ryan Dempster put together another solid spring outing. Dempster made only one mistake in his six innings of work. Dempster served up a two-run homer to Kurt Suzuki in the second. Dempster surrendered just three other hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
John Grabow was very good in his first game action since February 27. Grabow gave up a hit to the first batter he faced but sat down the next three Athletics to end his outing.
Kerry Wood, like Marshall, struggled with his command Thursday. Wood appeared in his first game in four days and could not throw strikes. Wood gave up a run on three hits and a walk.
The Cubs offense was non-existent for the first six innings. Geovany Soto broke up the shutout with a solo shot off Gio Gonzalez in the seventh.
Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead with his second longball of the spring … a two-run shot to center off Brad Ziegler.
Reed Johnson got into the act as well. Johnson came into the day just 4-for-29 on the spring without a RBI. Johnson hit a two-run homer off Grant Balfour in the eighth that gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.
All five runs the Cubs scored Thursday came via the longball …
There were several positives to come out of Thursday’s exhibition game against the A’s … but again, it seems like one step forward, two steps back is this year’s theme of Spring Training. A team cannot really ask for more out of their starting pitcher than what Ryan Dempster has given them this spring. Dempster has been sharp. He’s throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and not issuing walks. If Dempster can carry his spring over to the regular season he will have a very good year.
While the Cubs offense was busy swinging away, Ryan Dempster kept the A’s off the board in five of the six innings he pitched.
Dempster retired three of the four batters he faced in the first on 13 pitches, 10 for strikes. Dempster fell behind Hideki Matsui 3-0 to start the second. Matsui ended up ripping a single into right on a 3-1 pitch … and was on board for Suzuki’s homer.
Kurt Suzuki gave the A’s a 2-0 lead on a long home run to left. Dempster fell behind Suzuki 2-1 and had to come in. The 2-1 pitch to Suzuki was really the only mistake Dempster made all afternoon … and, Suzuki’s longball was the first one served up by Dempster this spring.
Dempster kept the A’s off the board in the third (11 pitches, seven for strikes) and in the fourth (three up, three down on 14 pitches, nine for strikes). Dempster finished his outing by retiring the last nine batters he faced.
The Cubs finally got on the board in the top of the seventh.
Gio Gonzalez owned the free-swinging Cubs for the six innings. Geovany Soto changed the momentum of the game with one swing of the bat.
Soto hit his first homer of the spring to start the seventh. With the Cubs down 2-1, Carlos Pena worked a walk and chased Gonzalez from the game.
Brad Ziegler replaced Gonzalez and gave up the lead on just one pitch.
Alfonso Soriano launched Ziegler’s first offering over the wall in center. The Cubs took a 3-2 lead after six and half … plus they set up Ryan Dempster for a meaningless win.
John Grabow took over in the seventh, his first game action since the Cactus League opener on February 27. Grabow gave up a leadoff single but that was it. Grabow was efficient, threw strikes and recorded outs.
The Cubs played tack on in the eighth.
Darwin Barney put together a long at bat that resulted in a walk. Reed Johnson then stepped in and worked the count to 2-2 against Grant Balfour. Johnson then launched Balfour’s next pitch over the wall in left and gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead.
Kerry Wood took the hill for the first time in four days … and struggled with his command. Wood threw 26 pitches, 14 for strikes and allowed the A’s to get back into the game.
Wood gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning before retiring Andy LaRoche on a foul out to third on a 3-2 pitch. Conor Jackson popped the first pitch he saw into shallow right. Blake DeWitt caught the ball and held the runners.
Matt Carson singled to right on a 0-1 pitch. Steve Tolleson ran for Chad Pennington and scored the A’s third run of the game. Wood walked Chris Carter to load the bases before inducing a ground out to first to end the inning.
The Cubs bullpen was shaky and struggled again Thursday. With the way the Cubs roster is constructed, the bullpen will have very little room for error this season. When Wood, Marshall and Carlos Marmol are used, the Cubs must nail down those wins.
Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs will host Sam LeCure and the Reds on Friday afternoon … only 12 Spring Training games remain before Opening Day.