MESA, Arizona -- Two pitchers went two innings each Sunday for the Cubs. One will be in the rotation for sure. The other might, depending on injuries and other needs. Neither one pitched all that well, and the Cubs lost to the Royals 5-3, and the Cubs are still winless this spring.
Mike Moustakas was the hitting star of the game. An equal-opportunity power hitter, he hit a solo home run to right field off Edwin Jackson in the second, and then with a runner on, hit one to almost exactly the same spot off Carlos Villanueva in the third.
Jackson was typical Jackson, which is to say: he had a decent first inning, allowing a two-out double to Eric Hosmer, and then he labored through a second inning in which he must have thrown 30 pitches. He managed two strikeouts in the inning, but also a walk and a single following the Moustakas homer.
Villanueva was not sharp, either. He struck out three, but after the second Moustakas homer in the third, he allowed a single to Lorenzo Cain and a run-scoring double to Pedro Ciriaco. By this time it was 4-0 Royals, because their two two-inning pitchers gave the Cubs a whole lot of nothing, except for a Welington Castillo double in the second and a single up the middle from Justin Ruggiano in the fourth. Yordano Ventura, who threw innings three and four, struck out just one, but was throwing really, really hard; he's been said to have one of the fastest arms in baseball and according to this FanGraphs article, threw at least one ball nearly 102 miles per hour last year. Ventura, just 22, has a good shot at making the Royals' rotation this year.
The rest of the Cubs' pitchers allowed the Royals' reserves just one run on two hits through the last five innings. That's good, but none of those pitchers (Dallas Beeler, Neil Ramirez, Armando Rivero and Yoanner Negrin) has much of a shot at making the 25-man roster. The Cubs scored in the fifth on a Donnie Murphy single followed by a ringing double from Darwin Barney, who is off to a good start (3-for-5) this spring. In the sixth, Javier Baez bounced a ball into the center-field berm for a ground-rule double. He scored when Anthony Rizzo looped a popup into short left field that was fumbled around. Rizzo was credited with a double and wound up on third when left fielder Lane Adams threw the ball somewhere in the general direction of the "CUBS PARK" sign behind the right-field seats. Rizzo scored on a Justin Ruggiano single.
But that was it for the Cubs offense. Baez, incidentally, was only in the game because Starlin Castro tweaked a hamstring trying to steal second after being hit by a pitch in the first inning. It seemed like the kind of thing that you'd play through if it were the regular season, but given that this is the first weekend of spring training, Castro was removed as a precaution. This seems to confirm that:
Castro says hamstring got tight on slide but "i'll be good" not as serious as last spring's hamstring injury— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 2, 2014
There were a couple of what seemed like egregiously bad umpiring calls, both ending innings for the Cubs defensively. In the fifth with a runner on first and two out, Cain grounded to Donnie Murphy at third, who threw to second. The ball seemed to get there at least two seconds after the runner did, but he was called out. And in the seventh, Aaron Cunningham looked like he was digging a hole in the left-field turf to find a ball that had dropped. From where I was it looked like it was clearly trapped, but Francisco Pena was called out to end the inning.
On a partly-cloudy day when it felt quite warm when the sun was out and quite cool when it wasn't, the Cubs broke Thursday's attendance record by announcing a crowd of 14,680. Many people who had tickets for Saturday's game wound up exchanging them for Sunday's, accounting for the sellout.
Monday, the Cubs will face the Brewers in Maryvale. Eric Jokisch will start for the Cubs against Milwaukee, and this lineup will take the field against the Brewers' Marco Estrada:
Coghlan LF, Roberts 2B, Valbuena 3B, Lake CF, Baez SS, Cunningham DH, Baker C, Valaika 1B, McDonald RF
At 10 a.m. MT Monday, the Cubs will play a "B" game against the Giants at Cubs Park. This game is open to the public free of charge, if you're in the area and want to take in another game. Jason Hammel, who was originally scheduled to start Sunday's game, will start this one, and the lineup for the morning game will be most of the guys who were supposed to start the Saturday night rainout at Talking Stick:
Alcantara 2B, Almora CF, Olt 1B, Bryant 3B, Kottaras C, Soler DH, Vitters LF, Szczur RF, Valdez SS
I'll be going to this game and I'll do my best to live-tweet it, since it won't be available on any broadcast or online channel. Very interested to see Bryant in his first start of the spring. I'll then return and listen online to the afternoon game and recap both of them during the afternoon Monday.
Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the term "B" game refers to a spring-training game that's unofficial; wins and losses and official statistics are not kept, although I'll keep a scorecard and post it here after the game.