Spring Training Game Three – Cubs 2, Reds 5
WP – Carlos Contreras (1-0) LP – Brian Schlitter (0-1, BS 1) Save – Daniel Corcino (1)
While Friday’s final score did not go the Cubs way, Jon Lester was excellent in his first start in a Cubs’ uniform in front of a record setting crowd of 15,331 at Sloan Park. Lester faced the minimum in his two innings of work and dispatched the Reds so quickly and efficiently that he had to finish building his pitch count in the bullpen.
Jon Lester struck out three in a row at one point (Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce) and gave up only a broken bat single to Chris Dominguez. Lester pounded the strike zone. Lester threw 16 pitches in the first inning, 13 for strikes, and nine pitches in the second inning, eight for strikes. Lester induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Kris Negron to end the second inning and his outing. Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara turned a pretty inning ending double play.
Jon Lester’s first final line with the Cubs: 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts, 2 innings
Jason Motte was sharp in relief of Lester and pitched around a Javier Baez error. Hector Rondon struggled but was effective and Pedro Strop was very good pitching to Kyle Schwarber. Zac Rosscup retired all three batters he faced with a strikeout. Justin Grimm pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
The Cubs first run came courtesy of Matt Szczur (1-for-2 with a triple and a run scored) and Jonathan Herrera (2-for-2 with a RBI). Szczur led off the fifth with a triple off the wall in left center. And Jonathan Herrera bunted him in.
The Cubs offense could not tack on after Joe Maddon started emptying his bench in the sixth inning. And the Reds took advantage of a defensive miscue and Brian Schlitter in the seventh inning.
The Reds scored five times in the seventh off Schlitter on four hits and a walk. Schlitter struck out two but he was not able to work around Billy McKinney (1-for-1) misplaying a ball in left off the bat of Donald Lutz. McKinney turned every way but the right one and could not recover in time to catch the ball.
Brennan Boesch provided the big hit of the inning off Schlitter, a three-run homer to left on the first pitch.
The Cubs second and final run came off the bat of Christian Villanueva, a sacrifice fly in the eighth that plated Adron Chambers (1-for-2 with a double and a run scored)
Junior Lake (1-for-2 with a stolen base) had to leave the game in the fourth inning. Lake tried to advance on a wild pitch. Tucker Barnhart’s throw sailed and Lake collided with Brandon Phillips. Lake stayed on the dirt for a while but left the field on his own power. Reports after the game indicated Lake is fine and he only suffered a contusion.
The Cubs make the short trip to Scottsdale on Saturday to face the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Jason Hammel is scheduled to make his spring debut against Brett Marshall.
Observations from the Park
Chris Denorfia (1-for-2 with a stolen base) had a good day at the plate, on the bases and in the field. Denorfia made a nice catch on a ball hit to short right by Billy Hamilton to start the game. Denorfia singled in his first at bat, stole second and advanced to third when Tucker Barnhart’s throw went into center field. Denorfia set the table for Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez to give the Cubs an early lead without a hit but neither player could deliver.
Javier Baez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout before his day ended. Baez did not change his approach with a runner on third and less than two outs in the first inning. After getting ahead 2-0, Tony Cingrani evened the count as Baez took big cuts. Baez struck out swinging on a high fastball for the second out. Baez did not shorten up he was still swinging for the fences. Baez smoked a liner to left in the third inning that Kris Negron made a good play on and in the fifth, Baez lined out to short.
Mike Olt (0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout) followed Baez in the first inning and put together a very good at bat. After falling behind 0-2, Olt changed his approach and worked a walk. Olt took what Cingrani was willing to give him, which wasn’t anything that he could drive. Olt flied out to center field in the third and struck out swinging in the sixth. Olt worked the count and put together good at bats each time he stepped in the box on Friday.
Kyle Schwarber ran for David Ross in the fourth inning after Ross singled off former Cubs’ lefty Paul Maholm. Schwarber was erased when Junior Lake grounded into what should have been a 4-6-3 double play, but Brandon Phillips did not start the play quick enough to keep Lake from beating Zack Cozart’s throw. Schwarber stayed in and caught the rest of the game.
In all fairness to the inexperienced Schwarber, he was thrown into the fire on Friday because the first reliever out of the pen that he had to catch was Pedro Strop. Schwarber did okay behind the plate and blocked a couple of balls in the dirt. Schwarber let strike three to Cozart get away from him and the passed ball extended the inning.
Schwarber showed signs of what it takes to be a good receiver. Very little movement, not stabbing at the ball, blocking balls in the dirt. A full year in the system learning how to catch and applying what he’s learned and those adjustments should do Schwarber a lot of good.
Brian Schlitter struggled with his command Friday. Granted Billy McKinney misplayed a ball into a double, but the Reds squared Schlitter up when he threw strikes. Schlitter is one of the pitchers that will have to play his way onto the Cubs roster, even if Maddon doesn’t put much into early spring outings, Schlitter cannot have a repeat of Friday again this spring.
Jason Motte threw the ball well Friday. Motte hit 96 mph on the stadium gun and was in the 87-96 mph range throughout his first outing of the spring.
Hector Rondon struggled with his command and threw 20 pitches in his inning of work, 11 for strikes. Rondon was consistently in the 95-96 range throwing to David Ross.
Albert Almora replaced Lake in the lineup and played center field. Almora was 0-for-2 with a strikeout. And in his only plate appearance of the game, Kris Bryant struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.