MESA, Arizona -- There's something about the seventh inning at Cubs Park. Remember the game last Wednesday? The seventh inning taking an hour with all kinds of weird occurrences?
It happened again Sunday during the Cubs' 10-8 win over the Brewers. The Cubs entered the seventh inning with a 6-2 lead, thanks for the most part to a two-run homer from Justin Ruggiano, a triple (generously scored, it probably should have been a double and an error) from Anthony Rizzo, another hard-smacked double from Javier Baez and two RBI from Junior Lake.
The seventh inning, again taking nearly an hour, featured:
- Five hits
- Four walks
- Three errors (and it should have been four; a ball lost in the sun was scored a hit)
- Nine runs, five by the Brewers giving them a 7-6 lead, then four more from the Cubs restoring them to the lead
- Many of those runs were off Brewers reliever David Goforth, who was busy multiplying walks (three) and runs (three)
Let's rewind to the beginning of another extraordinarily long (three hours, 32 minutes, the longest of the spring) game played on a day with unlimited sunshine and perfect baseball temperatures. The high sky was the likely culprit not only for the dropped fly ball described above, but for one that Brett Jackson couldn't handle in the last of the ninth. That loaded the bases... but wait, I said I was going back to the beginning.
Kyle Hendricks had a quick first inning but then ran into trouble in the second, issuing two walks; both runners scored on a double by almost-Cub Jeff Bianchi (you might remember he was on the 40-man roster for a month in the 2011-12 offseason). That tied the game after Ruggiano's first-inning homer, which followed a Matt Szczur leadoff single.
Let me again praise Szczur (sorry!). He's got a considerable skillset -- that single, good defense in the outfield, and he also laid down a nice sacrifice bunt in that ridiculous seventh inning. I would not mind seeing him make the 25-man roster as the fifth outfielder, depending on what happens with Mike Olt and Emilio Bonifacio in the infield.
The game actually sped along pretty quickly, with the Cubs adding a run in the fifth and three more in the sixth, until the seventh slowed it down. Pedro Strop, Jose Veras and Hector Rondon, all pitchers who will definitely make the 25-man roster, had good outings today, combining for three innings, allowing no hits, walking two and striking out two.
Ryan Sweeney ran into the wall in the top of the second chasing Bianchi's double; he left the game and is reported to be day-to-day with "soreness" in his right knee. It's really too bad, as Sweeney's progress to be a potential starter for this team keeps getting derailed by injuries.
Justin Grimm finished off the game with a save, but not before he allowed a bunt single, a walk and the ball that Jackson lost in the sun. He got a popup to second and a comebacker to end it.
Entertaining? Sure. But I'd love to see these games run just... a... little... shorter.
Today, I met Danny Rockett for the first time. He's in town to see spring-training games and also play a gig, which is going on tonight. Then he's heading to Vegas to see friends and the games there this weekend. Nice to share some time on the lawn with him. He seemed real happy to be out of the Chicago winter. Anything happen back there this winter?
Final baseball note: Heard today that the Cubs are spending some time this spring scouting major-league ready starting pitching. Make of that what you will.
Attendance watch: I had heard even before entering the park that the game was sold out. The "official" capacity of Cubs Park is 14,156, but they've already gone somewhat over that three times, including today. 14,770 paid to watch this game, breaking the previous Cubs Park and Cactus League attendance record of 14,680 set last Sunday. Total attendance is now 78,023 for six dates, an average of 13,004 per date.
Peculiar note: someone decided to turn the clock on the scoreboard at Cubs Park ahead an hour, despite the fact that Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Saving time. The tweet below was sent out at 11:25 a.m. MST:
By game's end, they still hadn't corrected this; the clock read 5:37 when the last out was recorded.
Monday, the Cubs travel to Scottsdale Stadium to face the Giants. Jeff Samardzija should become the first Cub starter to go four innings; he will face the Giants' Matt Cain.