PHOENIX, Arizona -- I was just thinking that I had never seen anyone hit three home runs in a game during spring training, when Junior Lake smashed a ball three-quarters of the way up the hitter's background in center field. That's likely a 450-foot shot, his third home run of the afternoon, each seeming longer than the previous one. If you didn't see it live, here it is:
The Cubs crushed six home runs in all; Luis Valbuena went back-to-back twice with Lake (for the second time in three days) and Mike Olt added a solo shot and the Cubs beat the A's 10-6, probably the most fun I've had at a game so far this spring.
It wasn't that way for the first five innings, as Athletics starter Jesse Chavez allowed the Cubs just two singles over that span, before running out of gas in the Cubs' five-run sixth which featured Lake's first home run, a three-run shot. Meanwhile, Jason Hammel struggled through a first inning in which he allowed four hits, hit a batter, and gave up two runs. Later, he walked a pair, allowed a stolen base and threw a wild pitch. Still, he managed to get to two outs in the fifth giving up just the two runs before being lifted due to a pitch count. Lake provided some excitement during the A's third inning when, after a double into the gap, he threw on a perfect relay to Darwin Barney, who then threw Alberto Callaspo out trying to score.
So now let's talk about Mike Olt. He made two errors in the seventh inning, the first on what should have been a fairly routine throw to first base on a sharp ground ball hit by Jed Lowrie. Three batters later, he booted yet another routine grounder, which would have ended the inning with no runs scoring off Wesley Wright. Wright then gave up a double and a single, so three A's runs scored, all unearned.
Olt "made up" for these gaffes with his eighth-inning homer, the fifth of the six Cubs dingers of the day. Before that he had gone out meekly three times, on an infield popup, a called strikeout and a ground ball to first base.
I'm hoping this bad day in the field from Olt doesn't hurt his chances of being the Opening Day third baseman. He has hit well enough this spring (12-for-44, five home runs) to earn the job. Despite Valbuena's two homers today, I think this team would be better served by Olt at third and Valbuena as a utility player. There's still a chance that Ryan Roberts, who started at first base Sunday and went 2-for-4, could make the team. That likely leaves Donnie Murphy as odd-man-out.
Emilio Bonifacio, who started in center field, wasn't wearing the No. 43 he's worn all spring; instead, he wore No. 1, which he wore as a regular for the Marlins and Blue Jays from 2009-13. Was this a portent of Bonifacio making the team? Decisions are going to have to come soon.
Darnell McDonald, who will probably not make the team, provided some unintentional humor when he appeared to trip either over his own feet or on the edge of the warning track while trying to catch a routine fly ball in the seventh. It wound up bouncing over the wall for a ground-rule double. But really, isn't it time for the Cubs to sever connections with a 35-year-old outfielder who doesn't do anything that well? The only reason he's here at all is that he spent a couple of years playing for the Red Sox while Theo was GM there.
This was the Cubs' final game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, as the A's are taking over the Cubs' old home at HoHoKam Park in 2015. Later this evening, I'll have a few thoughts on the final year for the oldest park in the Cactus League.