SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- You know, I'm beginning to wonder.
The Cubs are now 1-5 in games I've attended this spring and 3-1 in games I haven't. Maybe I should...
Nah. I'll be back at Mesa Sunday. Most of this, of course, is because the Cubs haven't been winning at Cubs Park. They are 1-4 at home and 3-2 on the road this spring. It's really too small a sample size... but if this kind of thing continues, I'll begin to wonder about the Cubs' ability to win at their own fancy new park.
Saturday afternoon, the Cubs shut out the Reds 9-0, their first shutout of the spring. Five Cubs pitchers combined to allow just six hits to a lineup that contained several Cincinnati regulars. Jason Hammel, making his first official spring start, got out of a bases-loaded jam (that he caused himself with three walks) in the first inning and then settled down and threw three overall good innings, prompting this comment to Carrie Muskat:
#Cubs Hammel says threw some bad pitches in 1st when walked bases loaded but also some that were definitely "swing-attable" #newword— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 8, 2014
Eric Jokisch also threw three really nice innings and Len Kasper commented on the webcast that Jokisch seems to do better against righthanded hitters than lefthanded hitters. Jokisch might not make it as a big-league starter, but someone like that would be really useful as a middle reliever. Jokisch gave up two singles and a double in three innings, didn't walk anyone and struck out three. Marcus Hatley, Carlos Pimentel and Neil Ramirez completed the shutout.
The offense had its best showing of 2014, and got going in the first inning with a two-run homer by Nate Schierholtz. Emilio Bonifacio drove in a pair with a long triple and a sacrifice fly, and all told, the Cubs had a nice offensive showing with nine hits and eight walks. Ryan Kalish, who probably isn't going to make the 25-man roster, walked, singled, stole a base and scored two runs. He'll likely be stashed at Iowa as an injury replacement. And, when the minor-league reinforcements took over, Christian Villanueva hit a two-run single in the eighth inning to make it a blowout.
If you were listening, you might have recognized the name of Trevor Bell, who pitched for the Reds in the eighth inning. The former Angels righthander, who had a very good year in the Cincinnati farm system in 2013 and who has a shot at making their 25-man roster as a non-roster invitee, is the grandson of Bob Bell, who played Bozo on WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus" from 1961 through 1984.
All told, it was nice to see the team play well both offensively and on the mound Saturday, even though I didn't "see" this game, only followed it on the cubs.com webcast. Another reason I'm glad I didn't go: game time of three hours and 22 minutes. 5,632 showed up at Goodyear on a gorgeous, sunny, breezy afternoon.
And... yes, I'll be back in Mesa Sunday, to see the Cubs take on the Brewers, with Kyle Hendricks (yay!) facing Milwaukee's Tyler Thornburg. This is the Cubs' final spring meeting with the Brewers, so we won't see Matt Garza until the regular season.