SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- It was cloudy in the Valley of the Sun Thursday afternoon, with a few sprinkles in the area, a good day to sit inside and listen to Len and Mick call the game, instead of making the long rid out to Goodyear. I've got to be a bit selective about the away games I'm attending this year, being here for the full month of spring-training games. 35 games in 35 days is... well, it's a lot. So I'll be skipping scattered away games, this one being the first.
Naturally, with me not in attendance, the Cubs played their fastest game of the spring. Up to today, the "fastest" was two hours, 47 minutes (Tuesday in Mesa). Even the "B" game Monday -- with no TV commercial breaks to slow things down -- was over three hours. Thursday, the game ran just a bit shorter than Tuesday (two hours, 41 minutes), and the reason was crisp and efficient pitching in a 1-0 Indians win over the Cubs in front of a very small gathering of 3,303.
Justin Grimm loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batsman in the fourth inning, and then walked Asdrubal Cabrera to force in the only run of the game. The rest of the staff -- Travis Wood, Hector Rondon, Chang-yong Lim, Marcus Hatley and Tommy Hottovy -- gave up just two hits and a walk in seven total innings. Wood was particularly impressive in his first actual Cactus League game action, allowing only a double to Michael Brantley in three innings, with three strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Cubs offense couldn't generate anything either, and the boxscore looked depressingly like one of last year's -- 11 left on base, 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. But unlike last year's games, at least the pitching pretty much matched the hitting. Losing a 1-0 game? Tough, but you can bring a lot of positives out of this one, especially the outing by Wood. Hitting-wise, Emilio Bonifacio and Anthony Rizzo had two hits, but none when anything counted. The Indians, who had a surprise postseason appearance in 2013, are off to a great spring start -- they are now 7-1.
The attendance at this game, I believe, is confirmation of my belief that the huge crowds at Cubs Park this spring are due mostly to the curiosity factor about the new ballpark. Cubs fans in the Valley (including me) didn't want to travel to this game in Goodyear, accounting for the small crowd. This means that the Cubs ought to set attendance records this year at the new ballpark, but after this year -- they'll have to be a better team to be able to fill the place.
Friday, the Cubs will have another split-squad date as they'll play their second straight game against the Indians, this time at Cubs Park. Edwin Jackson will start that game, I'll be back in attendance. The other half of the team heads to Tempe to face the Angels, with James McDonald on the mound. The Tempe game will be televised via FSN West, so if you live in the Los Angeles area you can watch it and you can also watch if you have a MLB.TV subscription online. That game will also be another one in the ongoing replay-review testing, so managers Rick Renteria and Mike Scioscia will have their opportunity to challenge.