SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Before Wednesday's game I tweeted this photo of the flags above Talking Stick blowing out at a pretty good clip and said, "Expect some home runs!"
We got some home runs. Seven of them in all, except someone forgot to give the Cubs the weather forecast. They hit just one of them, a solo shot by Chris Coghlan in the eighth inning, and by that time the Cubs were behind 13-3, mostly on the strength of Diamondbacks home runs. Eventually the D'backs collected six round-trippers, every one of them wind-aided (as was Coghlan's), and Arizona showed no Australia jet lag in a 14-4 blowout of the Cubs. This time, the word "blowout" can be used literally, with what should have been routine fly balls landing on various parts of the sold-out berm at Talking Stick.
Before all that happened, Jeff Samardzija had his final tune-up for Opening Day, and threw three good innings, allowing just one run and three hits, striking out a pair. Chris Rusin, presumably still in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation, didn't do himself any favors. He got a few outs on ground balls, but then started giving up extra-base hits and dingers and by the time he had allowed his fourth home run -- and third in the sixth inning alone -- manager Rick Renteria had mercy on him and lifted him for Marcos Mateo, who wasn't much better, allowing a single by former Cub Tony Campana and a run-scoring double.
Alberto Cabrera, also on the bubble and out of options, was inserted in the game in the seventh inning -- throwing for his second straight day -- and gave the Cubs a bullpen-choice dilemma, as he, too, was touched up for a home run, this one by D'backs minor leaguer Rudy Flores.
It's really not fair to judge Rusin or Cabrera from today's performance, with the wind shoving routine fly balls onto the berm. On the other hand, Samardzija didn't seem to have any trouble retiring Diamondbacks regulars, and Mark Trumbo was the only D'backs regular who hit a home run, the rest being tagged by reserves or minor leaguers. And D'backs pitchers had no trouble keeping Cubs hitters in the park, save Coghlan. So maybe it is Rusin and Cabrera, and maybe Carlos Villanueva and Justin Grimm get those spots on the pitching staff. Grimm threw an inning today as well, and also was touched for a home run -- this one by Aaron Cunningham. Yes, the same Aaron Cunningham who was released by the Cubs a week ago.
Perhaps the Cubs can run Cabrera through waivers and keep him. That's one choice. Or, they can figure that these were just two bad games and give Cabrera the bullpen spot, because he does have a good arm and has thrown well in the major leagues before. Not an easy choice for Theo & Co.
Other than that, Nate Schierholtz had a pair of hits; Mike Olt went 1-for-4 and looked fine in the field, and I think that after Wednesday's roster moves, he'll be the starting third baseman in Pittsburgh on Opening Day, which I also think is the right call. Javier Baez played well in the field, turning a nice double play, but was unable to take advantage of the wind. Just when it started kicking up a little faster in the ninth inning, he came up to face D'backs closer J.J. Putz in the ninth inning... and walked.
Thursday will be the finale of the Cactus League season, though the Cubs have two more games in Arizona after that, Friday and Saturday vs. the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Thursday's game will feature Travis Wood against the White Sox and Felipe Paulino. The game will be televised over WGN-TV -- reminder, that's with the Sox announcers, and another reminder: Thursday's game starts an hour earlier than you've been accustomed to over the last couple of weeks, noon Arizona time, 2 p.m. Chicago time.
And it will be, they tell us, less windy.