I’m so glad the Cubs didn’t cancel the season after Sunday, because that was fun. It was a pitchers day at Wrigley, but I’m not sure if 80 degrees and sun would have mattered as Jake Arrieta, and Lance Lynn were brilliant. Luckily for the Cubs, Arrieta was better, but not by much. Both guys were dealing, and the winning run came as a result of a hit batter, and a wild throw on a pick-off, go figure. After Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the 7th, and advanced to second on said wild pick-off, Starlin Castro delivered the game winning single, it was a super lazy single though…
Back to Arrieta, early on he didn’t have his best stuff as he had to battle through trouble in the first and third inning before settling into a groove. Arrieta worked seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits while walking three, and striking out seven en route to his first win of the season. For the second straight game the Cubs bullpen displayed just how dangerous they could be, dangerous in a good way, not a Carlos Marmol way. Phil Coke, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon combined to pitch the last two innings with Rondon picking up his first save of the season.
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I’m not even mad. Taijuan Walker put on a pitching clinic last night in what had to be the fastest spring training game in the History of ever. The Cubs couldn’t do much of anything against the young right-hander, and they could only manage six hits in the 3-2 loss. Travis Wood wasn’t terrible, he just couldn’t keep up in the five innings he worked. Wood gave up three runs on five hits, while walking two, and striking out three, his spring ERA sits at 4.19 which is fine. The pen did some work last night, Pedro Strop, Phil Coke, and Hector Rondon combined to work three scoreless innings, giving up one hit while walking two, and striking out four.
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You would think a five run lead with Jake Arrieta on the mound would be safe, it almost wasn’t. The Dodgers knocked around Arrieta in the second inning as they scored four times to cut a five run deficit to one. To Arrieta’s credit he battled and was able to work four innings, giving up said four runs on seven hits while walking two, and striking out five. The bullpen did the job today as C.J. Edwards, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Joe Ortiz combined to work five scoreless innings, giving up five hits while walking one, and striking out four.
A lot of good swings from the Cubs today as they pounded out thirteen hits while scoring seven times. Chris Coghlan made some loud noises with his bat, he finished the day 1-for-3 with a two-run blast, three RBI, and a run scored. Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora both continued their strong springs this afternoon with two hits each. Almora finished the day 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI, and two runs scored, he’s now hitting .353 on the spring. After starting the spring 1-8-1, the Cubs have now won six of seven, and are playing all around better baseball.
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In his first chance to impress the new Cubs staff Edwin Jackson was underwhelming to say the least. It was the same old story for Edwin as he couldn’t pitch around mistakes behind him, or mistakes of his own (one error). When it was all said and done Jackson gave up four runs, unearned, in two innings of work, sure they were unearned but he played a big role in that. The better news from the day was Kyle Hendricks throwing the ball very well, and Mike Olt continuing to have the best at bats of any Cubs player so far this Spring. Olt was 1-for-1 on the day with his second spring dinger, an opposite field blast, and a walk which brings his spring total to three in just ten plate appearances. It wasn’t all bad on the mound, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards, and Justin Grimm worked a total of four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, no walks, while striking out six.
One of the many bright spots from last year was Hector Rondon, a guy the Cubs essentially got for free (rule 5 draft pick). There was some speculation heading into camp that newly acquired reliever Jason Motte would challenge the incumbent Rondon for the spot, not a chance Maddon says. “He did close last year, didn’t he?” Maddon said “I ended my sentence.” Maddon had more sentences, “Mr. Rondon looks like he’s going to be pretty darn good here, but from my perspective, it’s about high leverage situations. I like to be able to match up. Matchups aren’t necessarily left on left or right on right. Today’s game presents a lot of reverse split-pitchers or neutral guys.
That’s a typical Joe Maddon quote. Match ups, different situations, who has been good, who hasn’t, Joe Maddon 101. I do like hearing that Maddon is committing, as much as he can, to Rondon right off the bat, leave nothing to the imagination and get it out of the way early. There really is no good reason not to, Rondon has absolutely earned the chance to close this upcoming season. Last year saw Rondon explode onto the scene as the Cubs closer, he appeared in 64 games and registered 29 saves. Rondon’s command was outstanding and his velocity was reaching high nineties late in the season as he seemed to get stronger. The 26-year-old had a 4.20 K/BB ratio while sporting a tasty 2.26 FIP, and a 1.5 fWAR, if he comes anywhere close to those numbers this year….yikes.
I think other guys will get chances this year, maybe more so than usual but that’s just Joe Maddon, right now there is no mistaking who the 9th inning guy is.
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Solid pitching? Check. Just enough hitting? Check.
It seems simple, but the Cubs have played some solid baseball over the past 90 games (45-45 before tonight), and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down with their latest win in Cincinnati tonight, their fourth straight. Travis Wood found his 2013 magic against his former employer, he worked six scoreless innings, giving up just two hits, while walking one, and striking out five. The Cubs pen shut, no, slammed the door once again, as Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon were lights out. Wood picked up his eighth win of the season, and Rondon registered his 22nd save of the year.
Offensively the Cubs got started in the first, and that was all they needed. Anthony Rizzo hit an absolute bomb off of Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto in the first, it was his 30th home run of the season, that’s impressive. Starlin Castro returned from the bereavement list tonight, and picked up right where he left off, he went 2-for-4 in the win. Arismendy Alcantara joined the fun late, as he blasted a two-run shot to give the Cubs some insurance in the seventh.
Get ready for Jorge Soler, he debuts tomorrow!
Note: Anthony Rizzo left the game late with some back tightness, he should be fine.
The Cubs did a lot of things well today, hitting with runners in scoring position was not one of them. The Cubs registered nine hits, took five walks, but were a paltry 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left eleven men on base. Solid performances up and down the Cubs pitching staff as well, only allowing one run on four hits.
At the Plate:
- Emilio Bonifacio did well out of the lead off spot today going 2-for-4 with two singles and a stolen base.
- Anthony Rizzo has had a hot start to the spring, he continued that today as he went 2-for-3 with two singles. Rizzo is now five for his last seven, and is hitting .500 in Cactus League play.
- Mike Olt, Logan Watkins, Albert Almora, and Darwin Barney all had one hit in the loss. Almora got the start in center, and Olt started at third, both went 1-for-3.
On the Mound:
- Travis Wood was brilliant today, much like he was all of last year. Wood worked three scoreless innings giving up one hit while striking out three.
- Justin Grimm took the loss as he struggled a bit in the inning he worked. Grimm gave up one run on two hits while walking one, and striking out one.
- Hector Rondon, Chang-Yong Lim, Marcus Hatley, and Tommy Hottovy combined to work four scoreless innings, giving up only one hit while walking one, and striking out three (each pitcher tossed one inning).