Cubs End the Spring on a Losing Note – Cubs 3, Astros 6

Spring Training Game Thirty-Eight – Cubs 3, Astros 6

WP – Jose Valdez (2-0) LP – Carlos Marmol (1-1) Save – None

The Cubs completed their extended Spring Training schedule with a loss to the Astros in Houston on Saturday afternoon. The Cubs offense could not get on track through the first seven innings while the Astros’ minor leaguers did just enough against Travis Wood and Jensen Lewis to build a three run lead.

The Cubs tied the game in the eighth on a two-run double off the bat of Steve Clevenger (1-for-3 with a double and two RBI) and a RBI single from Nate Schierholtz (1-for-3 with a RBI) but Carlos Marmol struggled again in the bottom of the eighth. With a little help from his defense, Marmol allowed three runs on two hits with a walk and a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning. Marmol threw 27 pitches, 21 for strikes, before turning the game over to Casey Coleman with one out and runners on second and third. Coleman struggled as well and gave up a two-run single to Trevor Crowe that put the exhibition game away.

Travis Wood had a decent outing against the Astros’ minor leaguers. Wood ran into trouble in the second and fifth innings due to free passes and in both frames he allowed runs. Wood was lifted in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Jensen Lewis got out of the jam. Wood allowed two runs on five hits with three walks, seven strikeouts and a wild pitch in 4 1/3 innings. Wood threw 74 pitches, 46 for strikes.

Jensen Lewis allowed a run in his 1 2/3 innings of work while Hector Rondon ended his solid spring with a scoreless seventh inning.

As expected, the Cubs’ starting eight each received one at bat before Dale Sveum emptied his bench. The Cubs put the leadoff hitter on in each of the first three innings against Brad Peacock but came away empty. Michael Foltynewicz, the Minooka, IL native, was dominant on Saturday afternoon. The Astros first round pick in the 2010 draft (19th overall) pitched four innings of shutout ball while allowing only one hit and a walk and striking out seven.

Darwin Barney left the game in the third inning with an apparent injury. Barney went for a foul ball and crashed into the side wall. Barney reportedly fell to the ground and Steve Clevenger asked for help immediately. Barney ended up walking off the field under his own power and without a limp. Barney has a gash in his left knee that required five stitches. Barney will not play in the opener on Monday and could be looking at a stint on the DL.

Dave Sappelt made a leaping catch against the wall in left centerfield to take away a hit from J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning … Len Kasper labeled Sappelt’s effort as “the catch of the spring.”

The Cubs finished the spring with a 16-19-2 mark, not including the victory over Team Japan on March 15 at HoHoKam Park.

The Astros put a run on the board in the second after Travis Wood made quick work of Houston in the first inning. Brandon Laird led off the second with a double off the wall in left center (1-1 pitch), the ball reportedly hit just below the yellow line. Wood then walked J.D. Martinez. George Springer bunted both runners up ninety feet and the Astros had runners on second and third with one out.

Jason Jaramillo hit a grounder to third. Luis Valbuena fielded the ball and threw to the plate. Laird was caught in a rundown and tagged out (5-2-5). Domingo Santana launched a 3-2 pitch to deep center. David DeJesus tried to haul it in but the ball hit Tal’s Hill and bounced over the wall … about a 420 foot ground-rule double. Martinez scored, 1-0 Houston. Delino DeShields Jr. was caught looking to end the inning.

The Astros tacked on to their lead in the fifth and knocked Travis Wood out of the game. Houston’s minor leaguers took advantage of the Cubs’ minor leaguers and added a run. Santana hit a grounder toward short that Arismendy Alcantara fielded but his throw was up the first baseline. Santana was given a hit and advanced to second on a bunt single by DeShields Jr. Two infield hits to start the fifth for the Astros. A wild pitch on a 2-0 offering to Trevor Crowe put runners on second and third with no outs. Wood walked Crowe to load the bases. Carlos Correa, the Astros’ top prospect, hit a liner to left. Ty Wright hauled it in as Santana tagged and scored from third. Wood walked Jonathan Singleton to load the bases with one down. Dale Sveum decided that was enough for Travis Wood.

Jensen Lewis replaced Wood with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Brandon Laird grounded into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.

The Astros added another run in the sixth. Jensen Lewis issued a leadoff walk to Marc Krauss. Lewis struck out George Springer and pinch-hitter Rene Garcia flied out to center. Domingo Santana tripled to center and plated Krauss with Houston’s third run … Santana was just a homer shy of a cycle. DeShields Jr. lined out to Sappelt in center to end the inning.

After managing only three hits through the first seven innings, the Cubs strung together a few hits in the eighth and put runs on the scoreboard.

New Astros’ hurler, David Martinez, retired Jae-Hoon Ha on a flyout to center for the first out. Dave Sappelt then reached on a single to center. Arismendy Alcantara followed with a single to right. Sappelt advanced to third and the Cubs had runners on the corner with one down for Steve Clevenger.

Steve Clevenger delivered another extra basehit. Clevenger doubled to left center and plated both Sappelt and Alcantara. Ty Wright hit a soft roller up the middle. Correa threw out Wright at first as Clevenger advanced to third with two down. Nate Schierholtz pulled a 0-2 pitch into right. Clevenger scored and tied the game at third. Zeke DeVoss ran for Schierholtz. Dioner Navarro walked and Bo Porter went to his pen for Jose Valdez. Brent Lillibridge flied out to right (2-0 pitch) to end the inning.

Carlos Marmol took over for the Cubs in the eighth … and struggled again. While Marmol had his issues, the Cubs defense did not help bail him out. With the game tied at three, Marmol issued a leadoff walk to Marc Krauss. Jose Martinez ran for Krauss and advanced to second on a single by Springer. Marmol appeared to strikeout Rene Garcia but the first base umpire over-ruled the homeplate ump after Bo Porter questioned if Garcia had tipped the 0-2 pitch. Garcia was given second life and he hit a grounder to second that should have been two. Lillibridge fielded the ball and threw to second but Alcantara’s throw pulled Clevenger off the bag. With runners on first and third with one down, Marmol caught Santana looking for the second out.

Delino DeShields Jr. reached on an infield single to Alcantara. The young shortstop rushed his throw with the speedy DeShields hustling down the line. Martinez scored and Alcantara’s throw got past Clevenger. The runners ended up at second and third with two down … and Sveum decided that was enough for Marmol.

Casey Coleman replaced Marmol and struggled. Coleman gave up a single to Trevor Crowe on a 2-2 pitch. Garcia and DeShields scored, 6-3 Astros. Correa then followed with a single to right. Coleman walked Singleton to load the bases before striking out Laird swinging on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.

Carlos Marmol (28/21) and Casey Coleman (17/9) threw a combined 45 pitches in the eighth inning.

The Cubs went quietly in the ninth to close out the pre-season.

Weather permitting, the Cubs open the 2013 regular season on Monday afternoon in Pittsburgh … Jeff Samardzija against A.J. Burnett on Opening Day.

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