Cubs Battle, Settle for a Split in Las Vegas – Cubs 5, Rangers 8

Spring Training Game Twenty-Four – Cubs (ss) 5, Rangers (ss) 8

WP – Robbie Ross (2-0) LP – Carlos Villanueva (0-2) Save – Chad Bell (1)

The Cubs could not rebound from an 8-1 hole in the seventh inning and dropped the second game at Cashman Field in Las Vegas to the Texas Rangers. The Cubs made it 8-5 in the eighth on a two-run homer off the bat of minor leaguer Tim Saunders and loaded the bags in the ninth with two outs, but Brad Nelson struck out swinging to end the game.

Carlos Villanueva had another rough spring game. Villanueva gave up three runs, all in the first inning, on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts in four innings of work. Villanueva labored in the first inning, gave up a two-run bomb to Mitch Moreland, and really struggled with his command all afternoon. While he walked three batters, it seemed like a lot more. Villanueva had little command of his fastball and pitched from behind in the count for a majority of his outing.

Dale Sveum used a host of minor league pitchers after Villanueva’s day was done. Frank Batista pitched a scoreless fifth, but Esmailin Caridad was hit pretty hard in his inning of work and surrendered three runs on three hits with a walk. The Rangers scored two more runs off Kevin Rhoderick on three hits and a walk. Trey McNutt was sharp and struck out two of the four batters he faced while Marcus Hatley worked around some shaky defense without allowing any runs in the ninth.

For the day, Cubs pitching allowed eight runs on 14 hits with five walks, five strikeouts and three long home runs.

The Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities to push runs across on Sunday afternoon in Vegas. The Cubs recorded 12 hits and walked six times but were a miserable 2-for-8 with RISP and left 12 on base.

Starlin Castro (1-for-2 with a walk) and Luis Valbuena (1-for-3) collected hits. Nate Schierholtz (2-for-3 with a home run) put the Cubs on the board with a solo homer in the sixth. The Cubs scored two runs off a struggling Jeff Beliveau in the seventh and Tim Saunders (1-for-2 with a home run and two RBI) launched a two-run homer in the eighth that capped the scoring for the Cubs.

The Cubs’ minor leaguers did not quit on Sunday afternoon, and made a game out of what appeared to be a blow out early on.

Carlos Villanueva labored in the first inning. Villanueva missed the zone, but not by much, and a missed 3-2 pitch by the home plate umpire, prolonged the inning. Elvis Andrus led off the game with a broken bat single to center. Gentry bunted back to the mound, Andrus advanced to second on the play. Villanueva then fell behind Mitch Moreland 2-0. Moreland ended up working a full count and Villanueva appeared to catch him looking at the 3-2 pitch, but the home plate ump did not ring him up. Moreland launched the next pitch over the wall in right … and the ball may still be orbiting Las Vegas.

A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single to left and scored on a two-out triple to the gap in right center off the bat of Julio Borbon. Mike Olt grounded out to short to end the inning.

Luis Valbuena and Starlin Castro singed in the bottom of the first, but the Cubs could not push any runs across the plate.

Carlos Villanueva worked around a leadoff walk to Gallo in the second, and a wild pickoff attempt to first that allowed Gallo to advance to third with one down without allowing the Rangers to add on to their lead.

The Cubs put two more runners on base in the bottom of the second … but Robbie Ross was able to wiggle out of trouble. Navarro worked a one out walk and advanced to third on a double to left off the bat of Darnell McDonald. With runners on second and third with one out, Brad Nelson struck out swinging and J.C. Boscan grounded out to first to end the inning.

Carlos Villanueva retired the side in order in the third.

The Cubs loaded the bases with two down in the third. Starlin Castro walked on four pitches with two outs. Schierholtz followed with a single to left. Scott Hairston walked to load the bases (3-2 pitch) … but Dioner Navarro flied out to deep center (2-2 pitch) to end the inning.

Villanueva labored through the fourth, but was able to work around back-to-back walks to Mike Olt and Joey Gallo. Hanser Alberto flied out to center for the second out and Villanueva caught Andrus looking at a 0-2 pitch to end the inning … and his outing.

Frank Batista, up for the weekend from minor league camp, faced the minimum in the fifth after A.J. Pierzynski bounced into a 6-3 inning ending double play.

The Rangers tacked onto their lead in the sixth against Esmailin Caridad. Caridad gave up a single to Borbon, walked Olt and then served up a no-doubter to Joey Gallo. Gallo launched a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right … that has not landed yet. Alberto followed the long homer with a single to left but Zach Zaneski grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning (Elliot Soto to Tim Saunders to Brad Nelson).

Nate Schierholtz put the Cubs on the board in the sixth with a homer to right. Dioner Navarro and Brad Nelson reached but with runners on first and third with two down, Chad Noble flied out to right (3-2 pitch) to end the inning.

The Cubs scored a pair of runs in the seventh off of Jeff Beliveau. Beliveau struggled with this command through a long seventh inning. Johermyn Chavez doubled in Edwin Maysonet with the Cubs’ second run and Ty Wright, up for the weekend from minor league camp, singed in Chavez.

Trey McNutt pitched a scoreless eighth with a pair of strikeouts.

Tim Saunders hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth against Ryan Feierabend that cut the Rangers lead to 8-5.

Marcus Hatley worked around some shaky defense in the ninth without allowing any runs.

Ty Wright and John Andreoli reached on two-out singles in the bottom of the ninth … and Darnell McDonald walked to load the bases. Ron Washington decided he’d seen enough of Ross Wolf at that point and went to his pen for lefty Chad Bell. Brad Nelson struck out swinging to end the game.

The Cubs play only one game on Monday. Edwin Jackson will take on Clayton Richard and the Padres in Peoria.

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