Dempster And Bullpen Shine In 1-0 Cubs Win Over Mariners

PEORIA, Arizona -- The official boxscore of the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Mariners this afternoon says the weather conditions were

77 degrees, sunny. Wind: 13 mph, Out to LF.

Um, no. It was 77 degrees and beautiful, but the wind was most certainly NOT blowing "out" to left field. I can tell you this because I was sitting on the LF berm and the wind was coming strongly from behind me, blowing in. Why is this important? Because if the wind had actually been blowing out, Ken Griffey Jr.'s long fly ball caught at the base of the wall by Sam Fuld for the second out in the ninth inning would have been a game-tying home run. Instead it was just a long out, and when Eric Byrnes hit a fly to left to end the game in an amazingly fast one hour, 59 minutes, the Cubs had their first 1-0 game and first shutout in spring training since a 1-0, 10-inning win over the A's on March 25, 2006. (Go ahead. Click on the link to find out some interesting stuff about that game, including how many hits Cubs pitchers gave up in the first nine innings, and who the starter was for the A's that day.)

The game went so quickly that when I was exiting the park, people were standing around, apparently not realizing that it was over. The crowd of 13,629 was, for the fifth time this spring, a new Cactus League attendance record (breaking the newest record set yesterday, 13,583 at Camelback Ranch in a game between the Mariners and Dodgers. Peoria Stadium was unbelievably crowded -- I don't think I have ever seen the lawn there that packed, and the concourses were hard to negotiate, especially for people in wheelchairs.

Ryan Dempster was outstanding today -- he's absolutely ready for his first regular season start, which should come Wednesday, April 7 in Atlanta (he should, if the rotation holds, make one more exhibition start, Friday vs. the Diamondbacks in Chase Field). Dempster allowed only four hits and until the seventh inning, no one past second base. In that seventh, he got himself into a jam with two singles sandwiched around a walk. Miracle of miracles, Lou did NOT come out of the dugout to make six pitching changes; instead he let Dempster work his way out of it, which he did with a flourish -- three straight swinging strikeouts. Very, very impressive.

Jeff Samardzija had a 1-2-3 eighth -- I've thought for a long time that the Shark was better suited to relief and could become, in time, a good setup man -- and Grabow a 1-2-3 ninth, though that Griffey fly ball was scary. Griffey, who was cheered loudly by both Cubs and Mariners fans -- this must have been what it was like to watch Willie Mays in his return to New York with the Mets, long after he was an effective player -- had hit a walkoff grand slam against the Reds on Friday, and almost provided some heroics today. Instead, it was a satisfying win for the Cubs.

Kosuke Fukudome produced the only Cub run on a sacrifice fly, after a Jeff Baker double and Ryan Theriot single in the sixth inning. The Cubs had only three other hits, all singles; Seattle's Ryan Rowland-Smith also threw a nice game. Xavier Nady started for the first time this spring in a major league game in the outfield. He had no putouts, and the only time he had to handle the ball was on Casey Kotchman's double down the RF line in the first inning. Theriot came out to RF a little farther than you'd normally see a cutoff man to take Nady's relay throw. That's likely to be the effect of Nady's current throwing trouble -- having cutoff men set up a little farther into the outfield. Most of the time, I don't think it's going to be an issue.

This post is earlier than usual, first, because of the lightning like pace of today's game, and second, because I am writing it at a FedEx Office place near Peoria Stadium, waiting to head to Glendale for Paul McCartney in concert tonight. Randy Wells goes for the Cubs tomorrow against the Reds' Carlos Fisher.

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