MESA, Arizona -- If I had told you before Sunday's game that the Cubs would get one-hit by five Reds pitchers, you'd probably have thought they'd lose, right?
Nope. Not this time. The Cubs' only hit Sunday afternoon was a two-run homer by Chris Denorfia that landed well up the left-center field berm. It came with Dexter Fowler on base with a two-out walk, and as it turned out, the Cubs needed both of those runs in a 2-1 win over the Reds before another sellout crowd at Sloan Park.
Travis Wood had yet another solid spring outing, solidifying his claim on the fifth-starter slot. He threw five innings and allowed three hits and a walk, striking out four. He was very efficient and the teams reached the bottom of the fifth in just a little over one hour. Johnny Cueto was nearly as good for the Reds, but walks did him in; the walk to Fowler and the homer by Denorfia were the difference in the game. Anthony Rizzo drew two walks off Cueto and the Cubs had just one more baserunner after Rizzo's second walk: Tommy La Stella was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the eighth.
Brian Schlitter, trying to hang on to a bullpen slot, threw two strong innings and Corey Black had a solid eighth.
Then it was up to Zac Rosscup (well-dubbed as "Cup of Ross" by some here) to finish things off. He nearly failed. With one out, a single and a wild pitch (a pitch not blocked well by Kyle Schwarber) put a runner on second. Ivan De Jesus Jr., in camp on a NRI with the Reds, hit a ground-rule double to make it a 2-1 game. Brennan Boesch singled to right, and Rubi Silva, who is entering his fifth year in the organization without ever playing above Double-A, fired the ball right to Schwarber, who tagged De Jesus out -- a really nice play on both ends. Rosscup struck out Donald Lutz to end the game with a Cubs win... and for me, as you might guess, it was one of my favorite games because of its length: two hours and 14 minutes. That's faster than any game at Wrigley Field last year and since 2009, only five Wrigley games have finished in 2:14 or faster. Fast-paced, crisply-pitched, nice defense and enough offense to win. How can you ask for more?
You might also be wondering: How often does a team win with only one hit? Spring-training records are spotty, so we don't really know the answer to that for a ST game, but it is very, very rare in the regular season. Baseball-reference.com's Play Index says it's happened just 65 times in major-league history, an average of less than once a year, although it happened four times in 2014. And for the Cubs? They've won a game with one hit just twice in their history (since 1914, as far as bb-ref's database goes back): July 17, 1914 and September 6, 1937 (second game).
Today was unofficial reunion day at Sloan Park. First, I spotted former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano signing autographs outside before the game. If you didn't catch my tweet with this photo earlier today, here it is:
He then entered the park, holding a ticket, and sat about 10 rows behind the plate with what looked like family members. Big Z looks like he's still in game shape. I also spotted former Cubs righthander Ryan Dempster on the berm Sunday afternoon and chatted with him for a bit. What a nice guy he is. I'm glad he's in the fold as a special assistant. Here's Demp (photo courtesy Donna Smith):
The sellout crowd of 15,316 brought the season total to 102,152 for seven dates, an average of 14,593.
Monday, the Cubs head to Peoria to face the Padres. Jon Lester makes his third spring start, against San Diego's Brandon Morrow.