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Cubs 6, Padres 2: A Masterpiece

Scott Feldman. Who knew?

David Banks

I got nothin'.

Well, no, that's not true. First of all, it's my job to provide a recap of each Cubs game here. Second, I actually have plenty to say about Scott Feldman's outstanding pitching performance, leading the Cubs to a 6-2 win over the Padres on yet another pleasant spring evening at Wrigley Field.

Still, you didn't see this one coming, did you? We are talking about a pitcher who had not completed any of his 105 previous major-league starts, and, in fact, had thrown as many as eight innings just three other times. He spent the night keeping Padres hitters completely off balance; after Chase Headley singled with two out in the first inning, Feldman retired 18 straight batters and might have continued that streak if Luis Valbuena hadn't committed an error on what should have been a routine ground ball to third base. Who knows? Maybe Feldman finishes off a one-hitter in that case, doesn't give up the two solo homers, one in the eighth and one in the ninth. That's the Fergie Jenkins school of pitching: if you have to give up home runs, make sure there's no one on base.

Side note to the bleacher person who threw Jedd Gyorko's home run back on the field: that was his first major-league home run. If you had kept the ball, you might have been able to exchange it for swag from the Padres' clubhouse. Dumb.

For Feldman, not only did he breeze through the San Diego lineup, his strikeout of Yonder Alonso to end the game was his 12th, a career high. Feldman's not a strikeout pitcher -- his previous career high was 11, but he now has just two career games when he's struck out more than seven opposing hitters. He also came within one of tying the team record for consecutive strikeouts (seven, held by Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Jamie Moyer) when he struck out the side in both the third and fourth innings.

To cap off an evening that seemed sprinkled with a bit of magic dust for Feldman, he smashed a ringing RBI double down the right-field line, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt, and hit another ball in the seventh inning that, had the wind been blowing the way it was Tuesday night, would have been a three-run homer. (Don't get too excited, non-DH fans; that makes Feldman 4-for-29 in his career with 11 strikeouts.)

Good on you, Scott Feldman. If you never again throw a game like this, that was one of the finest pitching performances I have seen at Wrigley Field in many, many years. In the expansion era -- since 1962 -- a Cubs pitcher has struck out 12 and thrown a complete game at home just 16 times (if you're interested, here's the complete list). It was also the Cubs' first complete game at Wrigley Field since September 21, 2011, when Matt Garza threw one in a 7-1 win over the Brewers.

The Cubs' offense didn't have to do too much to support this awesome pitching, but it did enough; Cubs hitters tagged former Cub Andrew Cashner with six hits and Cashner also issued four walks, resulting in five Cubs runs before Bud Black mercifully pinch-hit for him in the fifth inning. The walks were good to see, as Cubs hitters have not historically been known for their patience. Biggest hit of the game other than Feldman's double: Dioner Navarro's two-run double in the third inning, making the score 4-0. Other offensive props to Anthony Rizzo, who singled in that inning, stole second and advanced to third on an infield ground ball fielded by shortstop Everth Cabrera. Cabrera, who appeared to be surprised that Rizzo was heading toward third, threw late.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: I don't think Andrew Cashner will ever be a top major-league starter. The Padres ought to convert him to closer, trade Huston Street for prospects, and be done with it.

Scott Feldman might never throw a game like this one again; I'm hoping this is a sign that Feldman might become at least a decent, effective inning-eater in the middle or bottom of the Cubs' rotation. He did have a decent year in 2009 in Texas and a couple of his struggling starts this year were in part due to bad defense (in one case, this game at Miller Park, his own bad fielding hurt him). He's 30 and likely not in a place where he's going to establish a new level of performance. But for one night, at least, he looked like the most dominating pitcher in baseball.

As it turns out, due to the randomness of the rotation and Chicago weather last month, Feldman's next start will wind up being against his old team, the Texas Rangers, in next Monday's rainout makeup game. Think he won't want to prove something?

In the meantime, the Cubs once again have a chance to win a four-game series and take three of four, when they face the Padres in a daytime conclusion to this set. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.