A Tale Of Two Games

PEORIA, Arizona -- Today's first inning, which lasted 42 minutes, featured two walks, eight hits including a three-run homer, an error, and nine runs scored. (Based on that pace, we should have been there for six hours.)

The other eight innings were played in a snappy two hours and eleven minutes; there were eleven more hits but only one more run scored, and at one point fifteen consecutive Padres were retired (eleven by Jason Marquis and four by Carmen Pignatiello).

All of this added up to a 7-3 Cubs win over the Padres, and Marquis, who gave up hits to three of the first five batters he faced (and the three-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez, which went a long, long, looooong way), settled down and looked really sharp until he reached a pitch count with one out in the fifth. He had just struck out Luis Rodriguez, and Lou came out to get him and I said to Jeff, sitting next to me (he had awakened long enough from his nap in the sun to watch what was going on), "Why take him out? He was on a roll!"

But, Pignatiello was sharp -- allowing only a single to Gonzalez in his 1.2 innings -- and now that Scott Eyre reported tightness in his elbow (perhaps accounting for the bad outing he had yesterday), Pignatiello has new hope of making the major league roster for Opening Day. His outing today, another solid one, certainly didn't hurt his chances any.

Greg Maddux was awful today. He really had nothing -- the first five batters he faced reached base, although his SS, Khalil Greene, did him no favors by booting Eric Patterson's ball leading off the game. Uncharacteristically, though, Maddux walked two batters in the first (Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome), and when Ryan Theriot blasted a double to deep CF after two were retired, clearing the bases, the Cubs had a 6-0 lead (only one of the runs in the first and two of the seven overall was earned). Maddux left after the fourth inning, walking down the RF line to the Padres clubhouse to a large round of applause.

After that, Jessica, this site's #1 Maddux fan, who had been sitting ten rows behind the plate, came out to the LF lawn to join us. I told her, "It was your fault. He was too nervous seeing you sitting so close." She rolled her eyes.

In addition to Marquis' solid pitching performance, he also had two hits. This will likely increase his trade value, since I have heard that there's no way Rich Hill is getting sent to Iowa (even though he has an option year left). Hill has a lot of work to do on his mechanics, apparently, but his slot in the rotation is not in jeopardy.

The crowd of 12,035 at Peoria Sports Complex was one of the largest I have ever seen there, and it had to be at least half Cubs fans; they all gave a huge ovation when Kerry Wood trotted in from the bullpen to throw the 7th inning. Though not as dominant as yesterday, he threw an efficient inning, giving up a single but getting Josh Bard to end the inning on a nasty breaking ball. I presume that shortly, we'll hear that Wood has been named closer. Bob Howry, who had a shaky start to his spring, threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Best of all, Cubs pitchers issued only one walk today (by Tim Lahey, in the 8th inning).

Visible beyond the stands behind first base, opposite from where we were sitting on the LF lawn, was smoke from a large brush fire near Avondale, in the southwest part of the valley.

Micah Hoffpauir played right field again today, and had his first fielding chance at that position -- a routine fly ball by Paul McAnulty that he fielded routinely. Despite his great spring, I doubt he has any chance to make the 25-man roster, but if he can play even an average RF, he has a chance to become a callup if there are any injuries.

Which, of course, we hope there aren't, or that they're minimal, at least.

Finally, this article on the Cubs website chronicles the visits from various ex-Cubs on the Padres today to their former teammates (there were four in all). Here's one thing I learned from that link that I did not know before, about Michael Barrett's time with the Cubs last year:

The Cubs players didn't forget his contributions, and voted Barrett a full playoff share from the 2007 season.

Interesting. A full share? Pretty generous, I'd say. Till tomorrow.

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