No Luck for the Cubs in Phoenix or in Vegas – Cubs 3, A’s 4 – Cubs 7, Rangers 12

Spring Game Fifteen – Cubs (SS) 3, A’s (SS) 4
WP – Travis Schlichting (2-0) LP – Paul Maholm (0-1) Save – Erick Threets (1)

Spring Game Sixteen – Cubs (SS) 7, Rangers (SS) 12
WP – Derek Holland (2-0) LP – Jeff Samardzija (1-1) Save – None

The Cubs dropped two more Spring Training games Saturday afternoon … one in Phoenix with Jamie Quirk calling the shots and the other in Las Vegas with Dale Sveum at the helm. There were a lot of positives that came out of both games, namely the performances by Jeff Samardzija and Paul Maholm. While both pitchers took the ‘loss‘, both threw the ball very well.

In Phoenix, Paul Maholm made his second spring start and threw the ball much better than he did in his first outing. Maholm threw strikes and was ahead in the count for a majority of the three innings. Maholm was charged with three runs, all unearned, on two hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts. An error by Josh Vitters in the first prolonged the inning and led to the three runs.

Geovany Soto (2-for-2 with a home run, a double and a walk) hit his first longball of the spring and Marlon Byrd (2-for-4 with a walk and a RBI) had a good day at the plate. Starlin Castro (0-for-3 with a RBI) drove in David DeJesus (1-for-3 with a triple) with the Cubs’ first run in the opening inning.

Josh Vitters had a bad day at the park. Vitters’ first inning error opened up a big inning for Oakland. He hit into two inning ending double plays, was thrown out at second to end another and was 0-for-4 at the plate. Vitters, who showed up late to the team’s first meeting this spring, just isn’t getting it. This is a big season for Josh Vitters and it is time for him to play as he was projected.

In Las Vegas, the Cubs were the home team and the game started as a pitchers’ duel between Jeff Samardzija and Derek Holland. Samardzija was lights out the first time through the lineup and retired all nine men he faced. He ran into a little trouble in the fourth and did not appear to be as aggressive in his final inning of work. Samardzija allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts in four innings … and once again he did not walk a batter.

James Russell struggled again (two runs on four hits with a strikeout in one inning) and Trever Miller and Casey Weathers were horrible in the late innings. The Rangers scored nine runs in the last two innings off Miller, Weathers and Kevin Rhoderick. Miller allowed five runs on four hits, hit a batter and struck out one in the eighth. Weathers could not record an out, or throw a strike, and was charged with three runs on one hit and two walks.

Alfonso Soriano stayed hot and if not for the wind he would have hit his fifth homer in the fourth off Derek Holland. Soriano finished the game 1-for-3 and drove in the Cubs’ first run in the sixth.

Adrian Cardenas (3-for-4 with a home run, a double and two runs scored) had his best day of the spring. Junior Lake (1-for-4 with a home run) hit a mammoth homer just to the left of straight away center in the ninth. Steve Clevenger homered in his only at bat.

Spring Game Fifteen – Cubs (SS) 3, A’s (SS) 4
The Cubs jumped out to an early lead after David DeJesus led off the game with a triple off the wall in right center (1-1 pitch). Marlon Byrd could not get the run in from third. Byrd struck out swinging (2-2 pitch) for the first out. Starlin Castro put a 0-1 pitch in play. Castro grounded out to short, DeJesus scored … 1-0 Cubs.

Geovany Soto walked (3-1 pitch) and Jeff Baker reached on an error by third baseman Adam Rosales. With runners on first and second with two down, Brett Jackson flied out to left to end the inning.

Paul Maholm took the hill in the first and retired Weeks to begin the inning. Cliff Pennington followed with a single to center (2-2 pitch). Maholm struck out Yoenis Cespedes swinging for the second out.

Maholm should have gotten out of the inning when Manny Ramirez hit a grounder to third on a 3-2 pitch. Josh Vitters allowed the ball to play him, backed up and missed it. Pennington scored and tied the game at one.

Jonny Gomes walked and with two down, the A’s had runners on first and second.

Seth Smith ripped a 1-1 pitch off the ball in right. Ramirez and Gomes scored, 3-1 A’s.

Paul Maholm struck out Anthony Recker to end the inning.

Anthony Rizzo led off the second with a bloop single to center (1-2 pitch). Josh Vitters’ bad day continued. Vitters hit a weak grounder to short. Pennington flipped to Weeks to force Rizzo. Vitters reached on the fielder’s choice. Matt Szczur flied out to center and Vitters was thrown out at second, with DeJesus at the plate, to end the inning.

Paul Maholm sat down the A’s in order in the second.

The Cubs did nothing in the third.

Cliff Pennington flied out to center and Cespedes grounded out to third for the second out. Maholm walked Manny Ramirez on a 3-2 pitch after he was ahead of Manny (1-2) early in the at bat. Jonny Gomes flied out to a diving Matt Szczur in left to end the inning.

Ryan Cook took over for the A’s in the fourth and Geovany Soto greeted him by launching his first pitch over the wall in left … 3-2 Oakland. Cook retired Baker, Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo (struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch) after Soto’s blast.

Ryan Rowland-Smith made his Cubs’ debut in the bottom of the fourth. Rowland-Smith signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in February that did not include a non-roster invite to big league camp.

Seth Smith singled to left on a 2-1 pitch to start the fourth. Recker flied out to left and Rowand-Smith walked Brandon Allen. Adam Rosales hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice and Weeks flied out to center for the third out.

The Cubs did nothing against Pedro Figueroa in the fifth.

Rowand-Smith stayed in to start the sixth and Tony Campana (RF) took over for David DeJesus. Rowand-Smith ended up facing the minimum after Pennington reached on a bunt single. Cespedes flied out to center (1-2 pitch) and Manny Ramirez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Sonny Gray walked Marlon Byrd on a 3-2 pitch to start the sixth. Starlin Castro popped out to first (3-1 pitch). Geovany Soto ripped a 2-2 offering from Gray down the left field line. Byrd should have scored but was thrown out at the plate (7-6-2) for the second out. Baker lined out to right to end the inning.

Manny Corpas, Alfredo Amezaga (SS) and Micah Gibbs (C) entered the game in the bottom of the sixth … and the A’s tacked on a little insurance against Corpas.

Jonny Gomes led off with a double down the left line (1-1 pitch). Seth Smith singled to right. Gomes held at third and the A’s had runners on first and third with no outs. Corpas retired Recker on a pop out to second for the first out.

Brandon Allen continued his hot spring by flying out to deep center. Gomes tagged and scored, 4-2 Oakland. Rosales flied out to right center for the third out.

Sonny Gray walked Brett Jackson to start the seventh. Anthony Rizzo launched the first pitch from Gray to right field but the ball was caught on the track for the first out. Josh Vitters hit a 3-2 pitch to short that was turned into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Rubi Silva (2B) made his way up from minor league camp and took over for Baker in the seventh. Manny Corpas sat down the A’s in order in the bottom of the seventh with two strikeouts.

Sonny Gray started the eighth by retiring Szczur on a foul out to first (3-2 pitch). Szczur fouled off several pitches and put together a nice long at bat … but in the end, he was the first out. Tony Campana dropped down a bunt to the third base side of the mound. Gray fielded the ball but threw it into right field. Campana ended up at third with one down.

Marlon Byrd ripped a 0-2 pitch into center, Campana scored and the Cubs were within a run … A’s 4, Cubs 3.

Alfredo Amezaga walked and Oliver Zapata (up from minor league camp) took over for Marlon Byrd at second base but Micah Gibbs and Rubi Silva both struck out looking to end the inning.

Esmailin Caridad, up from minor league camp, made his spring debut Saturday afternoon … and struck out the side looking in the eighth.

Brett Jackson worked the count to 3-2 in the ninth against Erick Threets before popping out to short to start the inning. Anthony Rizzo walked on four pitches. The always impatient Josh Vitters swung at the first pitch he saw … and grounded into a 6-4-3 game ending double play.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Spring Game Sixteen – Cubs (SS) 7, Rangers (SS) 12
Jeff Samardzija was very sharp out of the gate and sat down the Rangers in order to start the game. Samardzija struck out Josh Hamilton swinging (1-2 pitch) to end the first.

Derek Holland was equally as sharp as Samardzija in the first and made quick order of the top of the Cubs’ lineup. Reed Johnson struck out swinging, DeWitt popped out to second and Soriano hit a broken bat liner to Adrian Beltre (0-2 pitch) for the third out.

The Rangers did nothing against Samardzija in the second.

The Cubs managed the first hit of the game in the bottom of the second. Mather (ground out to short) and LaHair (ground out to first) made two quick outs ahead of a single to center by Welington Castillo. Junior Lake fouled out to Mitch Moreland to end the inning.

The Rangers did nothing against Samardzija in the third … three up, three down with two swinging strikeouts. Samardzija retired the first nine batters he faced.

The Cubs did nothing against Derek Holland in the third.

Jeff Samardzija took the hill to start the fourth. The second time through the lineup he was not as aggressive and appeared to be a little tentative. Samardzija fell behind Elvis Andrus 3-0 before giving up his first hit of the game. Andrus deposited a 3-1 pitch into centerfield.

Julio Borbon followed Andrus and Ron Washington put on a hit and run. Borbon dropped a single into left. Soriano threw to third but his throw was offline. DeWitt threw to second and nailed Borbon for the first out. Dale Sveum brought the infield in and Josh Hamilton smacked a 2-2 pitch into right field. Andrus scored, 1-0 Rangers.

Adrian Beltre flied out to left center on a 3-2 pitch and Samardzija retired Nelson Cruz on a pop out to second (0-1 pitch) to end his afternoon.

The Cubs did nothing against Derek Holland in the fourth.

James Russell took over in the fifth and struggled again. Mitch Moreland (left-handed hitter) led off the fifth with a single to right. Yorvit Torrealba hit a blooper into shallow center that Cardenas and Lake tried to make a play on. Cardenas actually caught the ball but dropped it and tossed to DeWitt covering second to force Moreland. Torrealba reached first.

Joey Butler singled to right center (1-2 pitch). With runners on first and second with one out, Matt Kata flied out to left.

Elvis Andrus hit a 2-2 pitch up the third base line (swinging bunt). DeWitt barehanded the ball but did not have a play … and the bases were loaded with two down.

Julio Borbon singled to right (2-2 pitch). Torrealba and Butler scored, 3-0 Rangers. Russell struck out Josh Hamilton swinging to end the inning.

Mike Adams replaced Holland in the fifth and struck out the side in order (LaHair, Castillo and Lake).

Frank Batista, up from minor league camp, was really the only highlight out of the Cubs pen Saturday afternoon. Batista issued a four-pitch, two out walk to Mitch Moreland but that was all. Batista struck out Adrian Beltre (swinging), Nelson Cruz (swinging) and Yorvit Torrealba (looking) in the top of the sixth.

The Cubs offense woke up in the sixth and actually scored a run.

Adrian Cardenas singled to left center (2-2 pitch) to start the inning. Alexi Ogando struck out Bobby Scales and Reed Johnson popped out to first. Blake DeWitt singled to right … and with two down, the Cubs had runners on first and second.

Alfonso Soriano drove in the Cubs’ first run with a single to center (1-2 pitch). Cardenas scored, 3-1 Rangers. Mather popped out to third (2-1 pitch) for the third out.

Scott Maine did not allow any runs in the seventh and his line looks better than his performance. Maine issued a leadoff walk to Butler. Matt Kata ripped a 3-2 pitch up the middle. Junior Lake ranged over, ran to second and threw a strike to LaHair to complete the 6-3 double play. Leury Garcia lined a 2-1 pitch from Maine into center but Leonys Martin grounded out to third (2-0 pitch) to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against Alexi Ogando in the seventh … and after seven, the Rangers led 3-1.

The eighth inning Saturday afternoon at Cashman Field was very ugly.

Trever Miller took over on the mound for Dale Sveum and Steve Clevenger replaced Welington Castillo. Miller was horrible and turned a close exhibition game into a laugher.

Ryan Strausborger led off the eighth with a double off the wall in left. Guilder Rodriguez bunted back to Miller for the first out. Strausborger ended up at third. Miller hit Jared Pence (0-1 pitch). Michael Bianucci singled to left (1-2 pitch) and plated Strausborger with the Rangers’ fourth run.

Luis Martinez flied out to a diving Joe Mather in right center for the second out.

Miller fell behind Dusty Brown, 3-1, before he ripped a single into center. Prince scored, 5-1 Rangers. Renny Osuna hit for Matt Kata and launched a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall. Osuna’s three-run homer gave the Rangers an 8-1 lead. Miller struck out Leury Garcia looking to end the inning.

The Cubs’ offense came out swinging in the bottom of the eighth. Adrian Cardenas and Steve Clevenger hit back-to-back jacks off Alexi Ogando. Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch and James Adduci walked after DeWitt had flied out to right for the first out.

With runners on first and second with one down, Joe Mather hit a slow chopper (0-2 pitch) back up the middle. Osuna fielded the ball on the first base side of second but made a low throw to first. The ball got past the first baseman. Johnson and Adduci scored and Mather ended up at third, 8-5 Texas.

Bryan LaHair hit the first pitch to left. Mather tagged and scored, 8-6 Rangers. Micah Gibbs, up from minor league camp, grounded out to third to end the inning.

The recently demoted Casey Weathers started the ninth and could not throw strikes. Weathers’ first six pitches were out of the strike zone. Weathers walked Martin on four pitches and allowed him to steal second without throwing a pitch to the plate. Martin took off for second with Strausborger at the dish. Weathers stepped off but threw low to second. Strausborger singled to right and the Rangers had runners on first and third with no outs. Strausborger stole second and Weathers walked Rodriguez to load the bases.

Dale Sveum decided he’d seen enough and summoned Kevin Rhoderick from the pen.

The young reliever up from minor league camp for the day issued a bases loaded walk then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed two more runs to score. Martinez hit a grounder to second that allowed Prince to score the Rangers’ 12th and final run. Brown hit into a 5-4-3 inning ending double play.

The Cubs scored their final run in the ninth on a long home run by Junior Lake. Adrian Cardenas followed Lake’s monster shot to center with a hustle double to left but was stranded at third when Blake DeWitt flied out to center to end the game.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Weather permitting … the Cubs have another split squad day Sunday. Chris Volstad is scheduled to face Matt Harrison and the Rangers in Las Vegas while Andy Sonnanstine is expected to face Gavin Floyd and the White Sox at HoHoKam Park.

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