PEORIA, Arizona -- The Cubs lost to the Mariners 5-3 on Monday afternoon in front of a sun-drenched crowd of 9,352, the third-largest crowd in the Cactus League (as has been the pattern, the new Diamondbacks/Rockies complex and the defending champion Giants are drawing well, other teams, not so much).
But that's the whole story. What you need is half the story, because today was Matt Garza's day to shine. Garza got touched for a run on a pair of singles and a walk in the third inning, but otherwise he was solid today; Welington Castillo got him out of a first inning problem by throwing out Chone Figgins stealing, and that run and three hits and a pair of walks was all Garza gave up. To add to his good day, Garza also laid down two perfect sacrifice bunts. Neither of them eventually led to a run, but it's nice to see someone who doesn't have that much experience hitting, able to do something that many Cubs pitchers have failed at in the past.
The Cubs fashioned a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Reed Johnson walked (that's a good thing, too, as Reed doesn't walk much), and after a Scott Moore single, Bryan LaHair doubled them both in. Neither Moore nor LaHair is going to make this team, but they could be useful spare parts at Iowa. Moore played 2B again today and that lends him to being a versatile replacement at several positions. He handled three chances flawlessly, even starting a double play. So the Cubs led 2-1 after four innings.
Then came the "second half" of the game. Sean Marshall allowed two hits and a run to tie the game -- not the best inning I've ever seen him throw, although he did have a pair of strikeouts.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx came in to throw the sixth and was... bad. He had trouble finding the strike zone and when he did, the Mariners hit him hard, finally scoring three runs. I've always wanted to write that name on a scorecard, though -- where do you get a chance to write a name that has the letters "K" and "X" back to back? He'll likely be at Iowa this year, and I know some in the organization are high on him, but he'll have to do better than this -- the rally was against Seattle's starting lineup, but we're not exactly talking the AL All-Star team here.
The Cubs had a shot at breaking the game open in the top of that inning, loading the bases with nobody out, but James Adduci hit into a 1-2-3 double play and Reed Johnson popped up to end that rally. Let's hope we don't see too many innings like that this year. In an all too familiar story from last year, the Cubs today left 13 men on base.
Thomas Diamond kept it close with two decent relief innings and the Cubs eked out a run off 15-minute Cub Garrett Olson (that's about how long he was with the team after being acquired for Felix Pie, before being shipped to Seattle for Aaron Heilman).
It was hot today, but with a breeze it felt pleasant, even with the game dragging to a length of almost three hours (2:52). Most of these spring games have been pretty long, although I'd expect that to change after the off day Wednesday, when I'd also expect quite a few roster cuts. We'll see a lot fewer of the minor league camp after Wednesday. Tomorrow is the final split-squad game of this spring; Randy Wells starts in Mesa against the Rockies' Esmil Rogers, who is competing for Colorado's fifth starter slot. Other Rockies expected to throw are Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom and Huston Street, and Andrew Cashner gets a chance to show what he's got in a start vs. the Athletics' Brett Anderson at Phoenix.