MESA, Arizona -- All you can do is laugh.
After a seventh inning like today's in Mesa, that is. The seventh inning, which lasted nearly an hour and produced six runs, five hits, five walks, two absurd errors and a wild pitch, felt like a game in a T-ball league, not a major-league game, not even acknowledging the fact that this is still the first full week of spring training and mostly minor leaguers were playing in the game by then.
Before that, Javier Baez and George Kottaras hit back-to-back home runs off Chris Martin in the sixth inning to tie the game 3-3. Yay! you're thinking. Another home run from Baez! Consider this, though: Martin is a 27-year-old minor leaguer who has spent his entire career in the Red Sox organization without a single callup (and given his Boston connections, you'd think he'd have been in Cubs camp, not Rockies camp). For that performance, incidentally, Martin gets a "win," because he was the pitcher of record when the Rockies scored those four runs, yet further proof of how meaningless individual pitcher wins are.
The tie was broken in the seventh when Chris Rusin, who had thrown two decent innings, ran out of gas in his third inning of work. After loading the bases on a single and two walks, Rusin gave up a single to Rosell Herrera. Two runs scored, and when Herrera tried to take second on the throw in, Christian Villanueva, who cut the ball off, threw it into right field, allowing two more runs to score. That throw was a surprise, as Villanueva is usually an excellent fielder.
The Cubs came back in the bottom of the inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Rockies reliever Kraig Sitton wild-pitched a run in after Aaron Cunningham had singled in one. That's where the inning ended in terms of scoring, but not before left fielder Matt McBride dropped an easy popup. That loaded the bases with one out, but the Rockies then brought in Wilton Lopez, who struck out Luis Flores and got Jorge Soler to hit into a force play at third to end the inning.
Credit to Flores, who had a good at-bat, working the count on a couple of foul balls to 3-2 before striking out. Flores is a six-year org guy in the Cubs system who caught some at Iowa last year, and isn't officially in camp, just "helping out" from the minor-league camp when needed.
That Rockies error was one of five committed in the 7-5 Colorado win over the Cubs, including two that I had originally thought were hits. A leadoff grounder in the first by Ryan Kalish, bobbled momentarily by Troy Tulowitzki, was charged as an error to Tulo, and another grounder by Ryan Roberts in the third was charged as an error to first baseman Ben Paulsen. Usually, scorers are much more lenient in spring training, giving hits to players, especially the home team. Those scoring decisions, in my view, were pretty odd.
The first-inning error led to Kalish stealing second and third and scoring on a throwing error by catcher Michael McKenry, and the fifth and final Colorado error was charged to Paulsen when he dropped an easy eighth-inning foul popup hit by Cunningham, who eventually struck out.
Before all the fielding miscues, Jeff Samardzija struggled with his command again. He walked only one in three innings, but also hit a batter and gave up four hits, leading to three runs, and it might have been more except Kottaras threw Carlos Gonzalez out stealing to end the third inning. Cubs relievers who actually will have important roles this year -- Jose Veras and Pedro Strop -- both had solid 1-2-3 innings, and Strop's were all on easy infield grounders, a good sign.
All told, the teams combined for 18 hits, nine walks, six errors and 12 runs, which is a big reason the game slogged on for three hours and 27 minutes. Which is too long, but at least the game was played in sunshine, a pleasant light breeze blowing in from right field, and temperatures that rose into the low 80s, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.
Attendance watch: The announced crowd, 10,598, was about 500 more than Tuesday's. That makes the season total 49,813 for four dates, an average of 12,453. There were quite a few A's fans in attendance Tuesday, not as many Rockies fans Wednesday, so this was a much more Cub-centric crowd. Again, the Cubs more than doubled every other Cactus League crowd except for the Royals/Diamondbacks at Talking Stick (7,886) and the Angels/Giants at Scottsdale (8,275). The great weather and the curiosity factor are the largest components to the Cubs' great attendance start.
Thursday, the Cubs head to Goodyear to face the Indians, with Travis Wood (who was rained out Saturday and threw a sim game instead) making his first Cactus League start, against Cleveland's Justin Masterson. I will be taking a one-day break from attending games (need to catch up on things and don't feel like driving all the way to Goodyear), so I'll be listening in on cubs.com with all of you -- and I also wanted to thank Len Kasper for the BCB shout-out during today's broadcast. Thanks, Len!