Just when it appeared that the Cubs would not only have their third tie of the week, but their third 8-8 tie (no one was warming up and it was clear the game was going to be over after the last of the 9th), Reed Johnson singled, was sacrificed to second and singled in by Andres Blanco and the Cubs finished off the Arizona portion of the 2009 preseason with a 9-8 win over the Indians.
It was a strange day. The Cubs wore their blue batting practice tops for a game in Mesa for the first time that I can remember -- guess the white pinstripes were already packed. And on a day when you'd figure everyone was going to be swinging at the first pitch, the teams combined for eight walks and the game time was a langorous two hours and fifty-five minutes; by game's end all the regular Cubs who were in the game were long departed. Jim McArdle caught up with Ryan Dempster in the parking lot to get him a copy of his book "Living The Dream", and came back with this scoop: Dempster's wife Jennifer had a baby girl yesterday. Congratulations to the Dempsters on their second child (they also have a son).
The five walks drawn by the Cubs brought their spring total to 137, one more than the Angels, who play tonight, and the nine runs made the season total 241 (6.7 per game), second to the Angels and one more than the Royals, who scored three today in a 9-3 loss to the Rangers.
After solo homers by Shin-Soo Choo and Alfonso Soriano made it 1-1 after 1, the Cubs blasted Anthony Reyes for six runs in the second, the big blow being a bases-clearing triple by Koyie Hill (although, Dempster would probably want to say that his solid single to right field was important, too). Then the Indians chipped away; Dempster allowed another homer to pinch-hitter Andy Marte and after that, the bullpen was victimized by minor leaguer fielding. The Cubs were charged with no errors, but at least one run scored when minor leaguer Matt Camp turned the wrong way on a hit-and-run. That run scored off Chad Gaudin, who actually didn't throw too badly even though he allowed three runs. The homer given up by Gaudin to Ryan Garko was a blast that hit an umbrella over the Indians' relief pitchers in the RF bullpen. The minor leaguers we saw today are likely to comprise most of the Iowa roster, including non-roster guys So Taguchi and Chad Fox (who threw a nice 1-2-3 inning), who will likely be added to the Iowa roster soon, if they haven't been already.
Word is that Jim Hendry is still trying to deal Gaudin. The Rockies have expressed interest. His velocity looked good today and apart from the homer, his location was pretty good as well. At this point, all the Cubs would like another team to do is to take the contract and give back a face-saving prospect.
David Patton, who Lou wants on the team (and the reason they're trying so hard to trade Gaudin), had a tough inning, but again, he could have been saved by major league fielders. He did manage to induce a couple of ground balls, one of which was a DP ball from Choo, but the next batter, Josh Barfield, drove in the tying run. I'd still like to see the General on the team and hope that the Cubs can make some sort of deal to keep him.
The smallish crowd of 7,933 enjoyed perfect weather -- again -- and brought the season total to 203,105, which will stand as the major league spring training record for quite some time (because it's unlikely that any teams will have as many as 19 spring home dates again). The average of 10,690 isn't a record, but stands up well in these tough economic times and once again, the Cubs led the Cactus League in average home attendance (and boosted everyone else's attendance as Cub fans populated almost half the parks in road games).
Tomorrow in New York, weather permitting, Ted Lilly will face Chien-Ming Wang. TV coverage will be on the MLB Network and, as posted in Trey2317's FanShot, you can watch for free on MLB.com, as long as you have a MLB.com account (if you've ordered tickets online, you have one).
Finally, this exchange overheard today:
Vendor: Lemonade, lemonade, just like grandma made!
Fan: Hey, grandma never charged us!
Vendor: Hey, grandma has a new longterm contract. It's a tough economy, gotta pay for it somehow!