Baseball is Back – Cubs 10, A’s 12

Game One – Cubs 10, A’s 12
WP – Travis Schlichting (1-0, BS 1) LP – Marcos Mateo (0-1) Save – None

After the off-season of change, the Chicago Cubs finally took the field Sunday afternoon at HoHoKam Park. The focus shifted from the front office and coaching staff to the field with mixed results. While it is important to win every time a team steps on the field, Spring Training is more about performances than final scores.

The Cubs played like a team trying to find an identity and at times looked good doing so. All of the baserunning drills from camp led to their first two runs of the game … then later in the game both David DeJesus and Darwin Barney were picked off first in the same inning. It was that kind of day. Seemingly for every good play or pitch there was a bad one.

After building a 3-0 lead in the third, the Cubs found themselves down 9-3 going into the bottom of the fifth. The young Cubs took over at that point and never quit.

The Cubs tied the game with a five-run fifth inning with the big hit, a bases clearing triple, coming off the bat of former A’s farmhand Adrian Cardenas.

The A’s took the lead in the top of the eighth but the Cubs tied the game on a throwing error by third baseman Josh Donaldson. Marcos Mateo struggled with his command in the top of the ninth and ended up taking the loss after allowing two runs.

Darwin Barney (2-for-2 with a double, two RBI) drove in the Cubs first runs of the spring with a two-out, two-run double in the second off of Brandon McCarthy.

Adrian Cardenas drove in three with a bases clearing triple in the fifth and made one of the better defensive plays of the game, a diving catch in foul ground in the seventh.

Welington Castillo started in place of the injured Geovany Soto. Castillo was 1-for-2 with a home run … and what a home run it was. Castillo lined a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left … the ball got out of the park in a hurry.

As for the pitching performances, Carlos Marmol and Rafael Dolis stood out and Jeff Beliveau threw the ball much better than the box score indicates.

Rodrigo Lopez mowed down an extremely aggressive Oakland offense in the first inning. Lopez retired the side on eight pitches, all strikes, but missed his spots badly.

The Cubs did not fare much better against Brandon McCarthy in the bottom of the first … Alfonso Soriano popped out to first on a 1-1 pitch, Ian Stewart struck out swinging on a 1-2 pitch and Starlin Castro tapped back to the mound on a 2-1 pitch.

As the cliché goes, it was easy to tell it was the first inning of the first Spring Training game.

Lopez finished his day by retiring the A’s in order on 12 pitches, nine for strikes, in the second. Lopez was effective against the Oakland’s offense again but continued to miss his spots.

Marlon Byrd notched the first hit of the game, a one-out single to left center in the second. With David DeJesus at the plate, Byrd stole second (2-2 pitch). DeJesus was in a quick 0-2 hole against McCarthy before working a walk and putting runners on first and second with one down.

Jeff Baker hit a 0-1 pitch to short, a tailor made double play ball. But DeJesus hustled up the line and took out Eric Sogard to prevent the A’s second baseman from turning the double play.

Darwin Barney stepped in and ripped a 0-1 pitch into left. Colin Cowgill, the A’s left fielder, slipped as he was going back on the line drive. Byrd and Baker scored, 2-0 Cubs.

With Castillo at the plate, Barney stole third but was stranded when Welington Castillo popped out to right center on a 3-1 pitch.

Carlos Marmol was sharp in the third. The wildest pitch he threw was his first warm-up pitch in the pen (the ball sailed past my head and ended up in centerfield). Marmol stuck out Cowgill looking and sat down the A’s in order on eight pitches, six for strikes.

Alfonso Soriano, hitting out of the leadoff spot in Dale Sveum’s lineup, led off the third with a single to right center off McCarthy. Ian Stewart followed and ripped the first pitch he saw into center. After Starlin Castro popped out to right (0-2 pitch) with runners on first and second, Bryan LaHair hit a grounder to second that should have ended the inning.

Eric Sogard flipped the ball to Cliff Pennington but the shortstop’s throw was low and wide of first. Soriano scored, 3-0 Cubs and LaHair ended up at second. Marlon Byrd grounded out to third on a 2-0 pitch to end the inning.

Jeff Beliveau did not retire a batter and while his box score looks horrible, the lefty threw the ball extremely well. Beliveau hit his spots and appeared to just miss the strike zone. Beliveau was putting the ball exactly where Castillo was calling for it. Beliveau threw 26 pitches, 13 for strikes and was lifted with the bases loaded.

All three walks Beliveau surrendered were on 3-2 pitches against right-handed batters. And while the pitches were called balls, they appeared to be right there. Crisp and Pennington walked to start the inning.

Josh Reddick, a left-handed batter, recorded the A’s first hit of the game … a single to center on a 1-1 pitch. Crisp scored, 3-1 Cubs.

With runners on first and second with no outs, Beliveau walked Chris Carter, a right-handed hitter on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Dale Sveum made the slow walk and brought in Dae-Eun Rhee with the bases loaded, no outs and the Cubs up 3-1.

Brandon Allen launched a 3-2 pitch into the A’s pen beyond the right field wall … and just like that, the Cubs were down 5-3.

Rhee continued to struggle with his command. He was not hitting his spots and in fact was missing badly. Rhee retired Suzuki on a grounder to second before serving up another home run, a solo shot by Eric Sogard that ended up in the Cubs’ bullpen beyond the right field wall.

Rhee retired Wes Timmons on a fly out to deep left to end the inning. Oakland scored six runs in the fourth on three hits, two home runs, and three walks.

Rhee threw 21 pitches in the fourth, 14 for strikes.

For as good as the Cubs baserunning was in the second, it was equally as bad in the fourth inning.

David DeJesus led off the fourth with a bloop single to center. Jeff Baker flied out to right. On a 1-2 pitch in the dirt to Darwin Barney, DeJesus got too far off first. Suzuki threw behind him and DeJesus had no chance of getting back to the bag. Barney followed the mistake with a solid single to center.

With Welington Castillo at the plate, Barney was picked off first trying to get back to the bag.

After four, the Cubs were down 6-3.

Dae-Eun Rhee continued to struggle in the bottom of the fifth and could not complete the inning. Rhee ended up throwing 15 pitches, 11 for strikes, but he hung several off speed pitches.

Pennington blooped a one-out double down the right field line. Josh Reddick hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Starlin Castro got to and threw to third to nail Pennington for the second out. Castro did not pause and was very fluid was his motion, feet and throw.

Chris Carter followed and hit a rocket down the third base line. Ian Stewart made a fine diving stop to knock the ball down. With runners on first and second with two out, Brandon Allen hit a double to right. Kurt Suzuki followed with a hard single to left. Soriano made a good play on the ball, charged and threw a strike to the plate. Allen held and with runners on first and third with two out, Sveum made the slow walk and brought in Trever Miller to face Eric Sogard.

Miller’s first pitch was in the dirt and past Castillo. Allen scored from third … 9-3 A’s. Sogard flied out to right to end the inning.

The Cubs started making their comeback in the bottom of the fifth against Brian Fuentes.

Welington Castillo lined a 1-1 pitch from the veteran southpaw over the wall in left … 9-4 A’s. Fuentes retired Soriano, Stewart and Castro in order to end the inning.

Dale Sveum made wholesale changes in the sixth. Adrian Cardenas (2B), Brett Jackson (CF), Micah Gibbs (C), James Adduci (RF), Jae-Hoon Ha (LF), Junior Lake (SS), Anthony Rizzo (1B) and Jonathan Mota (3B) entered the game. Miller pitched the sixth and worked around his own throwing error without allowing a run.

The bottom of the sixth was fun to watch.

Anthony Rizzo singled to left on a 0-2 pitch to start the inning. Brett Jackson followed with a walk. James Adduci blooped a 0-2 pitch into left to load the bases.

Dale Sveum went to his bench and sent up Dave Sappelt to hit for Jeff Baker.

Sappelt hit a 0-1 pitch into left and just out of the reach of the A’s shortstop. Rizzo scored, 9-5 A’s.

Adrian Cardenas, the former A’s farmhand, stepped in and ripped a 0-1 pitch from Edgar Gonzalez into the right field corner. Cardenas ended up at third and the Cubs were down by only one run after the bases clearing triple.

After Micah Gibbs popped out to third, Jae-Hoon Ha broke his bat on the first pitch he saw but able to muscle the pitch into right. Ha’s bloop single plated Cardenas with the tying run.

Jonathan Mota struck out swinging on a 0-2 pitch in the dirt and Ha was thrown out trying to steal second (Junior Lake at the plate) to end the inning.

After six, game tied at nine.

Rafael Dolis was pretty impressive in the seventh. Dolis retired the side in order on 15 pitches, nine for strikes.

Lendy Castillo took over in the eighth after the Cubs failed to score in the bottom of the seventh. Castillo was extremely wild and ended up throwing 18 pitches, nine for strikes. Castillo’s first six pitches were out of the strike zone and it ended up costing him a run. Castillo issued a four-pitch walk and he came all the way around to score … despite excellent defensive plays by Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Marcos Mateo had little to no command in the ninth and took the loss. Mateo threw 27 pitches, 16 for strikes, and ended up allowing two runs on two hits with a walk.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Click Here for Video from Cubs first Cactus League game of 2012

Ryan Dempster will face Bartolo Colon and a split squad A’s team Monday at HoHoKam Park.

Observations from the Cubs Cactus League Opener

  • Anthony Rizzo has a strong, accurate throwing arm.
  • On a play in the eighth inning, Brett Jackson put himself in perfect position to catch the ball and make a strong, accurate throw to third base … the runner could not advance.
  • During batting practice, the Cubs were in their defensive positions, including Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro, and each player was working on their defense … just not shagging balls.
  • During batting practice, the Cubs worked on baserunning drills with Dave McKay.
  • Pre-game warm ups were longer than in years past and each player appeared to be focused on improvement.
  • Bryan LaHair and Ian Stewart hit balls to all fields with authority during batting practice.
  • Geovany Soto took batting practice with the team. Soto was seen taking additional batting practice in the cage as he teammates prepared for the start of the game.
  • Marlon Byrd is noticeably thinner.

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver