MESA, Arizona -- The only problem with all these long balls is that people are going to expect this to happen when the regular season starts, and we all know how different regular-season conditions are from the warm weather and thin air of Arizona.
The Cubs slammed out four more home runs Friday afternoon in a 6-3 win over the White Sox that snapped a four-game losing streak. The Cubs now have 36 home runs in 25 games. That pace would produce 233 home runs during a 162-game season, which would nearly match the team record of 235, set in 2004.
That isn't likely to happen, even if Kris Bryant (who's hit fully one-quarter of the total, nine of 36, all by hisownself) comes to the big leagues in late April and starts mashing home runs.
Three of today's blasts were by men who were teammates of White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija with the Cubs in 2014: Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, who both hit their first of the spring, and Chris Coghlan, whose round-tripper was his second. Jorge Soler, who didn't come to the Cubs last year until after Shark was gone, smacked his third.
You can see by these GIFs (thanks to BCB reader ubercubsfan as always) that the pitch location was nearly the same for all four of them:
And the first three homers were hit to nearly the same location on the left-field berm, including Coghlan's, a two-run shot to the opposite field. Rizzo's was a long drive to right-center off a low breaking pitch, a real nice piece of hitting. The homers produced all the scoring for the Cubs. I can forgive yet another error from Castro (lack of focus again, I think) because of the home run. But he really needs to work on that.
Meanwhile, Jason Hammel was having another fine appearance. He threw six innings and made just one mistake, to Tyler Flowers in the fifth inning with J.B. Shuck on base. Apart from that, Hammel gave up just four other hits, all singles, and his defense turned a couple of nice double plays behind him. Hammel will have one more start this spring, probably the final game at Sloan Park next Wednesday, and then should be ready for the season.
This game was played by Joe Maddon much more like a regular-season game than any before, particularly in regard to pitching. Hammel's turn in the batting order came up in the bottom of the sixth and Matt Szczur pinch-hit for him. Then Pedro Strop, Phil Coke and Hector Rondon came in to throw an inning each. In this case Rondon was simply being used in the ninth inning, presumably to start using him in his regular role, even though it wasn't a save situation. As seems to often happen with closers who are put in non-save situations, he gave up a run -- a homer by Melky Cabrera. Conor Gillaspie then singled, but another double play and a comebacker that Rondon snared quite niftily ended the game.
It was very hot Friday afternoon, with unofficial temperatures reaching as high as 95. That put some of the EMTs to work helping people who couldn't handle the heat, and from all accounts did a fine job. And, as I predicted in the game preview:
The game is sold out. I'll predict right now it has a chance to break the all-time single-game spring attendance record that the Cubs set March 6 -- 15,331.
They did, by 11 people. The crowd of 15,342 set a new record and pushed the season total for 12 dates to 178,450, an average of 14,871. Saturday's game is also sold out. There are still tickets available, I'm told, for the final two games of the spring Monday vs. the Giants and Wednesday vs. the Brewers, if you're in the area and want to see a game.
Saturday, the Cubs will have their final split-squad day of this spring. At Mesa, they will face the Rockies with Jake Arrieta starting against Tyler Matzek. At Goodyear, another squad of Cubs will face the Reds. Gonzalez Germen will start against Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman. That ought to be interesting. The Mesa game will be on WBBM radio.