MESA, Arizona -- This afternoon, on a day when people who were smarter than I was brought sweatshirts that they put on when clouds obscured the sun for about 45 minutes with the temperature "only" in the mid-60's, I sat next to a nice family from the Merrillville, Indiana area (and who got BCB cards, so they may be reading this -- hey folks, and remember, I'm only kidding here!), whose two daughters -- sisters -- won $10 from their mom by betting her that they could get Matt Murton to wave at them when he came to the outfield, which he did in the eighth inning.
That has nothing to do with the title of this post. You know, "a tie is like kissing..."
Oh, come on. You've heard that phrase, right?
Sheesh. Try to tell a fun little story and get people thinking all sorts of things!
The sort of game played today -- a misshapen mess in which the teams combined for seven errors -- doesn't deserve a winner, and fittingly, didn't get one. The Cubs played to their second tie of the spring this afternoon, 4-4 with the Rockies, in front of another sellout, 12,712 at Ho Ho Kam Park.
Mark Prior started this game, rather pointlessly, and looked about halfway between his Fitch Park appearance on the 16th, and his outing last Thursday in Peoria against the Padres. He did strike out three, including a nice called-third on Garrett Atkins, but also issued two walks, and had several balls hit to deep reaches of the outfield. He might have gotten out of his three innings totally unscathed -- all three runs he allowed were unearned -- had the Cubs' outfield defense been a bit better. Alfonso Soriano dropped a fly ball off the bat of Kaz Matsui in the first -- seemed like there was some miscommunication between Soriano and Jacque Jones on that play -- and that helped lead to the two first-inning runs; and Cliff Floyd topped him by making two errors on one play in the second. Floyd dropped a line drive hit right at him by Willy Taveras, and then threw the ball Jones-like, right into the ground about twenty feet in front of him, allowing Taveras to reach second and Troy Tulowitzki, who had doubled, to score the third run. All told, Prior still appeared to be shortarming and aiming the ball; he was all over the zone, including a wild pitch in the first, and is clearly a work in progress, a work that will be continued this summer in Des Moines, where Prior was optioned after the game.
The Rockies returned the bad-fielding favor in the last of the third; Atkins booted a grounder by Henry Blanco and then Soriano smashed a long home run over the left-center field berm (about 450 feet), making the score 3-2.
Michael Wuertz, trying to show management that he should make the team, threw for the second day in a row. This one was better -- he threw a scoreless inning, allowing only a leadoff walk to Tulowitzki. Angel Guzman, also trying to show that he, rather than the Cubs' other Angel (Pagan) should make the Opening Day roster, threw three effective innings today; he did allow a run, but that was all, and he also laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning.
That was after Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez had tied the game up with back-to-back HR; Lee's was to the opposite field, landing in the Cubs' bullpen; Ramirez' matched Soriano's for direction and distance, at least 450 feet onto the LF sidewalk behind the berm.
And that, unfortunately, was all the scoring there was to be this afternoon. There were some bizarre plays in the field; in the Rockies' 8th, with a runner on second and two out, Ryan Theriot bobbled a Tulowitzki ground ball, which allowed Tulowitzki to reach base -- but then Rockies non-roster CF Dexter Fowler, who had walked and stolen second, got caught in a rundown off third base, and wound up being tagged out by Theriot, who had raced over to back up the play, ending the inning.
In the bottom of that inning, after a walk to Jacque Jones -- his second consecutive walk, incidentally, and how often did we see this sort of thing from him last year? -- Theriot grounded to second on a hit & run. It was too late to get Jones at second, so the play was made to first base; but Jones had hesitated and was tagged out at second base in a peculiar double play.
Neal Cotts threw a good inning today -- that was his, the top of the 8th -- and Ryan Dempster came into the game in the 9th to try to redeem his poor outing of yesterday. He did, walking one but retiring the other Rockies without incident; I saw both Cotts and Dempster running down Center Street as I left the parking lot (and couldn't get my camera phone out quickly enough to take a photo, darnitall!).
And then we nearly had a replay of yesterday's Ronny Cedeno heroics. Ronny came up with Henry Blanco on second base and two out in the bottom of the 9th, with a chance to win the game. He did keep the rally going by beating out an infield single. With Lee and Ramirez up, it seemed as if the Rockies might walk Lee to set up a force play; instead, they pitched around him, and on a 2-0 sinker, Lee bounced into a force play.
The tenth inning was thrown by pitchers from the minor league camps. Once again, as yesterday, Federico Baez came over from Fitch Park to pitch the tenth inning. After throwing what seemed to be about 20 pitches to Rockies backup catcher Geronimo Gil, he got Gil and then Frank Menechino to ground out. Fowler then tripled over Soriano's head -- Soriano played the ball poorly, letting it bounce past him off the wall, though Fowler, a fast runner, would have probably made third base anyway. The inning eventually ended on a fly ball to Jacque Jones on the warning track.
And the Cubs could do nothing either, with Rockies minor leaguer Adam Bright. Ramirez led off with a single, but was erased on a double play, and Theriot bounced to short to end the game.
John Mabry (remember him? I know, I was trying to forget him, too) was spotted attempting to prolong his career by playing third base for about half the game (and first base, too) for the Rockies. He popped up foul and walked in his two plate appearances.
Other notes: Bears coach Lovie Smith, in town for the NFL management meetings, sat for nearly the entire game in a front-row seat right behind the Cubs' management crew in the folding chairs next to the dugout. About mid-game, Jim Hendry joined him there. Oh, to have been able to eavesdrop on that conversation!
Finally, I discovered this gem today -- a quickie "five questions" with our old pal Dr. Tightpants. He actually has fond memories of his time as a Cub:
Farnsworth: I would say my [April 29, 1999] callup against the Marlins, coming up from Iowa and pitching for the Cubs. I got the win that night in Florida, and I can remember just being so excited. That's my favorite baseball memory.
Kyle was indeed good that day -- he started, threw six good innings and did get the win. If only he'd been able to keep going in that direction -- he might still be a Cub. There aren't too many people who can throw a baseball 100 MPH. If only he'd had the smarts to go along with that arm. For whatever it's worth, he's due to have a good year in 2007 -- it's an odd-numbered year. Sounds weird, I know, but look at his career record.