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All Z, All The Time: Cubs 5, Mariners 3

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Carlos Zambrano tried to win today's game singlehandedly; he threw six outstanding innings, allowing only a solo homer to Chris Woodward and striking out six. He also doubled (for a moment, looking like he wanted to try for three, then thought better of it, perhaps remembering he almost hurt himself trying to do that during spring training last year) and scored the Cubs' first run.

The Cubs hung on for a 5-3 win over the Mariners, despite Carlos Marmol getting hit pretty hard in his inning of work, and not by many guys who are going to make the major league Mariners roster. This was a disturbing pattern with Marmol last year -- looks lights-out for a while, then comes into a game and suddenly looks like a scared little rookie. Maybe he just needs a few more outings to get his pitches where he wants them. As of now I'd give the closer job to Kevin Gregg and let Marmol do the same role he had last year. Angel Guzman threw a nice inning today, reducing his spring ERA to 9.00 -- maybe some scout was watching today and was impressed.

It was the Cubs' fourth win in a row, for whatever that's worth. While in general spring wins and losses don't mean anything, Lou will tell you, if you ask, that it's still nice to get that "win" feeling walking off the field. I couldn't agree more.

Derrek Lee returned to the lineup today (nice to see) and doubled and walked before he was replaced by Micah Hoffpauir.

I don't have a whole lot of time to finish this recap because I am shortly heading for O'Hare to get on a flight to Phoenix, and I'll report from there for the rest of spring training. (Kind of excited!) Tomorrow's game vs. the A's at Phoenix Muni will be available via announcers only. I seem to recall the last time this was the case, the A's announcers were pretty lame. We'll see if this is still the case tomorrow.

Today's crowd of 13,002 at HoHoKam Park, another sellout but short of Friday's record, brought the 14-game total to 146,294, and the season average to 10,450. With five dates remaining, if they all come close to or exceed today's number (and at least two of them will, next Friday vs. the White Sox and next Sunday vs. Cleveland), the all-time spring training attendance record, set in 2005 by the Cubs (193,993), will fall on Tuesday, March 31, when the Angels visit.

One final note that could have a major impact on the NL Central race: new Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman will not be ready for Opening Day after straining an oblique muscle last week (that's a tough injury for anyone, worse for a 41-year-old athlete):

Right-handers Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung are the candidates to close early in the season if Hoffman is unavailable.

If the Brewers have to close with Carlos Villanueva or Seth McClung, they are in big trouble. Until tomorrow, from the Valley of the Sun.

MLB Florida and Arizona Spring Training -
SB Nation