Spring Training Game Fifteen – Cubs 4 Rangers 5
WP – Sidney Ponson (1-0) LP – Bobby Howry (0-1) Save – Wes Littleton (1)
After winning 4 out of 7 last week, the Cubs dropped their third in a row on Wednesday afternoon against the Texas Rangers. Lou Piniella’s offense was minus all but Alfonso Soriano and they scored just 4 runs for the third consecutive game. Alfonso Soriano hit his first home run of the spring; a 2-run shot to right that gave the Cubs a brief lead in the top of the 5th. Micah Hoffpauir continued his impressive spring. He was the only Cub to record a multi hit game and hit his second home of the exhibition season in the 3rd inning off of Jason Jennings. The Cubs offense managed only 6 hits and 3 walks in the loss.
Ted Lilly struggled in his third start and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits in 4 innings with 3 strikeouts and no walks….4 of the 7 hits were for extra bases including the first of two home runs by Gerald Laid. The Rangers added 2 more home runs after Lilly’s departure. Gerald Laird’s second round tripper of the day in the 6th inning off of Bobby Howry ended up being the difference in the game. The game was a true seesaw battle. Every time the Cubs offense would take the lead, the pitching staff would give it up in the next half inning. Mike Fontenot scored the first run of the game after reaching on an error by Edgardo Alfonso with 1-out in the 1st inning. Daryle Ward singled to left center, Fontenot advanced to 3rd and scored on a single to left by Matt Murton. Casey McGehee grounded into a force out to end the inning.
Micah Hoffpauir broke the 1-1 tie in the 3rd with a solo shot over the right field wall. The Cubs went in order in the 4th thanks to a catch that was described as spectacular by Marlon Byrd.
Sam Fuld led off the 5th inning with a single to center off of Eddie Guardado. Alfonso Soriano followed with an opposite field 2-run homer that gave the Cubs a brief 4-3 lead. Hoffpauir flied out and with Daryle Ward at the plate and a 1-1 count, Guardado left the game with what was later described as a strained tendon in his left knee….Ward ended up striking out to end the inning.
The Rangers bullpen kept the Cubs offense off the board for the final 4 innings and the game ended after Ronny Cedeno was thrown out trying to steal 2nd base.
Jose Ascanio took the mound to start the 5th with his team up 4-3. Ryan Roberts flied out to start the inning but Michael Young tied the game with a solo home run to straight away center. Ascanio then gave up a double to Jason Botts before retiring Alfonso and Byrd on fly balls to end the inning.
Bobby Howry’s slow start continued against the Rangers. Howry pitched in back-to-back games for the first time, unfortunately with the same results. Howry gave up Laird’s second homer of the afternoon in the 6th with 1-out, the only hit and run he surrendered. Piniella replaced Howry with Neal Cotts with 2 outs in the 6th.
Cotts did not allow a run and gave up only 1 hit and a walk in an inning and a third. Kevin Hart blew through the 8th….three up, three down with a strikeout.
In the head to head match-up of Matt Murton and Marlon Byrd….
Murton was 1-for-4 with a RBI and Byrd was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a spectacular catch. Wonder if the scouts were in attendance?
The Cubs and Lou Piniella’s new lineup will face Greg Maddux and the Padres at HoHoKam on Thursday. Jason Marquis is scheduled to make his third tune up of the spring against his former teammate.
News from Arizona
Lou Piniella announced on Wednesday he is going to experiment with the lineup again. This time Alfonso Soriano will be inserted into the 2nd spot behind Ryan Theriot. The reasoning is to keep Soriano healthy. In turn, Kosuke Fukudome will drop to 5th in the lineup behind Aramis Ramirez.
Soriano was asked if he would bunt hitting in the 2 hole. According to the report on Cubs.com, Soriano replied….”No bunts, no.” The report said he was smiling as he made the comment.
The change to the lineup is expected to start on Friday when the Cubs host the Angels at HoHoKam according to the Chicago Tribune.
Scott Eyre remained in Mesa on Wednesday to get in a little extra work after his outing on Tuesday. Eyre was scheduled to pitch against the Rangers.
The Chicago Tribune mentioned Bobby Howry might be taking himself out of the running for the closer’s job after his performances over the last two days….3 runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Angel Guzman has begun throwing every other day according to a report on Cubs.com. Guzman has not thrown off a mound but he is building arm strength.