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Cubs Throw First Shutout Of Spring, Beat Padres 2-0 (Oh. Also Lose To D'backs)

Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Paul Maholm pitches during the second inning at HoHoKam Park. Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Paul Maholm pitches during the second inning at HoHoKam Park. Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

MESA, Arizona -- The Cubs might not do this too often in 2012, so let's take a moment to savor their 2-0 shutout of the Padres, the first shutout thrown by Cubs pitching this spring.

Paul Maholm was excellent; he gave up four hits and a pair of walks, and each time he got into a bit of trouble, he got out of it either with ground balls or strikeouts. He did give up a triple to Jaff Decker (that is not a typo; his name really is "J-A-F-F") but that ball was misplayed on a bad route by Reed Johnson, who let it go by him; it really should have been a garden-variety single.

After that, Carlos Marmol threw probably the best inning I've seen from him this spring; he did issue a walk (on a very close 3-2 pitch), but otherwise had good command of his slider. Let's hope that continues.

Casey Coleman, who the Cubs are trying to convert to short relief, threw two good innings also. Coleman has a funky motion that might be well suited to short stints.

And Rafael Dolis finished up, posting his second save of the spring; HoHoKam Park doesn't have a pitch-speed meter, but he had to be snapping off 95-MPH fastballs throughout. A couple of notable things in that inning: Matt Szczur made an absolutely outstanding, flat-out-diving catch of a sinking liner by Decker for the first out, and Dolis had to face two batters more than he should have because he uncorked a pitch that Geovany Soto couldn't handle on what should have been a strike-three to end the game. The ball got away and Padres minor leaguer Everett Williams reached base; the next hitter, Yasmani Grandal, walked, putting the tying run on base, but Vince Belnome grounded out to end it.

The Cubs' offense didn't do much better than the Padres', but it was good enough -- a first-inning walk to Starlin Castro (with two out, always a good thing) was followed by Bryan LaHair's RBI double, and then in the next inning, Jeff Baker doubled (one of two doubles he hit Monday, both off righthanders, another good thing) and was singled in by Tony Campana.

The Cubs had only four more baserunners the rest of the game, but those two runs were good enough for the win. I like what I've seen of Maholm -- a lot. Dale Sveum might call him his "fifth" starter, but he's at least the third-best pitcher, and maybe the second-best, on the team.

Attendance on a picture-perfect afternoon was 7,122, the smallest crowd I have seen this late in the spring in many, many years. That brings the season total for 12 dates to 116,054, and the per-game average drops a bit, to 9,671.

Meanwhile, in front of 11,573 at Talking Stick (maybe one of the reasons the crowd at Mesa was so small), another squad of Cubs lost 3-2 to the Diamondbacks. Since I did not see any of this game, I can't really say much about it that you can't get out of the boxscore yourself. Blake DeWitt had two hits; no one else had more than one, and with the release earlier today of Trever Miller, Scott Maine, who threw a scoreless inning (though with two walks) might have come closer to making the Opening Day roster.

Also, Kerry Wood, who hasn't thrown in over a week, says he'll be ready for Opening Day:

"I really just slowed it down," Wood said of this spring. "I got off to such a fast start and I wanted to time it so we're ready to roll when the season starts. I've got three or four outings planned down the stretch and I'll be ready for Opening Day."

He did have some back spasms but that was before the Cactus League season began. He has not pitched in a game since March 18 but has done side work, including a session last Tuesday.

Monday's pair were the final split-squad games of this spring. On Tuesday, the Cubs head to Goodyear again (I'm not going to this one; already drove out to Goodyear and don't feel like fighting rush-hour traffic back, and I need an off day) to face the Reds. Matt Garza will go for the Cubs; Mat Latos will start for Cincinnati.