PHOENIX, Arizona -- Lest I get chided again for getting too excited about the Cubs' third shutout win in the last week, 6-0 over the Diamondbacks this afternoon, I am well aware that (all together now) "spring results mean nothing!"
Nevertheless, it was good to see the pitching staff -- all major leaguers today -- scatter seven Arizona hits; Esmailin Caridad finished it off with a nice double play, after Randy Wells, John Grabow, Carlos Marmol, Justin Berg and Jeff Samardzija gave up only five hits combined over the first eight innings.
It's clear to me that this staff has the ability to be a solid starting rotation and bullpen. The issue, as we have seen this spring, is consistency. Three times this week, the staff has twirled a shutout. And then, another day, they got pounded 11-0 by about half the major league Angels ballclub. They need to start throwing like today every time out, or at least most times, in order to succeed. I'd like to think that outings like today's will give guys like Caridad and Berg the confidence they need to be good major league setup men, as the club needs them to be.
Only time will tell.
The Cubs posted a pair of three-run rallies off mostly D'backs minor leaguers, although two old buddies of ours, Aaron Heilman and Bob Howry, both threw scoreless innings. When I heard Howry's name introduced, my shout of "Hey! Home run Howry!" amused the small group of Cubs fans sitting in front of me.
Before all the regulars departed, likely so they could make an early evening departure for Atlanta, Mike Fontenot, Chris Robinson and Ryan Theriot singled, producing a run; then Kosuke Fukudome hit a sac fly and Aramis Ramirez drove in another. The sixth-inning rally was sparked by Starlin (Vocal Band) Castro, who tripled (he also doubled later on). Castro finished the spring hitting .429 and made quite an impression on everyone. Still, I agree with everyone who says he needs most of this season in the minors; I don't think he should be recalled till September.
Michael Brenly got to catch half the game in front of his dad, which had to be a thrill for both; he grounded out and walked in his two at-bats. Michael Brenly, to my understanding, was mostly drafted just as a favor to Bob, but it does appear that he's likely good enough to at least have a shot at the major leagues. He's only 23, so he still has time. That'd be a great story.
Attendance today was announced as 19,571, though it appeared as if more of the paid crowd actually showed up today as compared to last night; looked like there was actually close to that number in the house, again about half Cubs fans.
And though it doesn't count for anything, it's still nice to win in Chase Field. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, the Cubs are 5-17 in the house of pain in Phoenix (including the two losses in the 2007 NLDS, and last night's loss). I believe winning helps breed winning, and any time you can do that -- it can't hurt. The Cubs finished the spring season 18-12, compared to last year's 18-18. Yes, I know: "spring records mean nothing!"
Let's keep that going for real, starting Monday.