The Cubs lost to the Rangers today 7-2, their sixth loss in a row, but the most important stories came on the HoHoKam Park mound.
Sean Marshall was outstanding today, becoming the first Cub starter to go four innings -- and he gave the good-hitting Rangers only two singles, and struck out three. It's too early to give the fifth starter's job to Marshall, but he's got to be the favorite now, especially since that would give the Cubs two lefties in the rotation, something Lou would like (I know Lou likes lefthanded hitters, but he also likes LHP in the rotation). Tomorrow, two of the other candidates, Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija, will throw against the Royals (we'll also see Kevin Gregg and Randy Wells), and isn't it nice to have two others besides Marshall who could start -- three, if you count Aaron Heilman?
If Marshall can't handle the load, there are others who can. That's something the Cubs haven't had much of in the last few years, pitching depth.
Kevin Hart and Chad Fox probably pitched their way off the team today, Fox with his wildness helping lead to the Rangers' lead run in the 8th, and Hart loading the bases on a single and two walks and then letting Greg Golson, who was acquired by trade by the Rangers last fall but who has little chance of making the team, hit a grand slam. Too bad, as I thought that Hart, who had enough talent to get himself on the 2007 postseason roster, could have become a useful bullpen pitcher for the Cubs, but it seems he's destined to be a career minor leaguer. Fox, who seemingly has been coming to Cubs spring camps since the 1970's, is probably finally done at age 38. Give the guy credit for trying several comebacks, but it's time to give it up. Meanwhile, Luis Vizcaino, who maybe should give it up, also was wild, issuing three walks that helped lead to the Rangers' two-run fifth, and he couldn't even finish his designated inning of work -- not very good for those of us who are hoping that the scouts will recommend to someone to pick up his contract.
The Cubs' two runs scored on a double play and an infield out. That's not very good offense, and the only Cubs who had decent offensive days were Aramis Ramirez (2-for-2) and Koyie Hill (2-for-2, a walk, a run scored), and if Hill could even hit 100 points lower than the .357 he currently sports, he'd be a useful backup catcher.
The strikeouts came from Jose Ascanio and Neal Cotts, both of whom threw shutout innings and struck out the side. That's a good sign for Cotts; for Ascanio, it probably makes him the closer at Iowa again.
Attendance today was 11,082 on a coolish, 66-degree day; that makes the seven-game average 9,680, not bad for this early in the spring. (It'll likely go down tomorrow, a Monday afternoon against the Royals.)
For once, the visiting radio broadcast was pretty decent; apart from one 1908 mention (at 3:31 pm CDT, 24 minutes into the game), Eric Nadel and Dave Barnett did a nice job of calling the game straight and seemed fairly knowledgeable about the Cubs. Tomorrow's game will again be available at the MLB.com Mediacenter, via KCSP, the Royals flagship, hopefully with Denny Matthews, one of the best in the business (and hopefully NOT with Ryan Lefebvre, who ... isn't). Brian Bannister will start for the Royals tomorrow, and will be followed by, among others, Luke Hochevar, Joel Peralta, and our old buddy Dr. Tightpants, Kyle Farnsworth.
While spring training results mean nothing, these games have seen the Cubs look pretty flat and lifeless, with little offense generated to support the good pitching. It's time to step it up and start hitting.