MESA, Arizona -- There is a story -- not apocryphal, this one had witnesses -- of the New York Mets in 1964 against the Cubs, just two years after the Mets were created and when they were still very, very bad. They scored 19 runs at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. When news started to spread around the newsroom of the old New York Herald Tribune, longtime columnist and wag Jimmy Breslin said, without missing a beat: "Did they win?"
(They did. 19-1. This game.)
Anyway, the Cubs scored 23 runs today! Did they win? Well, yes... and no. They split a pair of games in their final split-squad action of the spring. One squad of Cubs lost to the Reds 9-5 with the primary highlight being a Dexter Fowler home run. Fowler and Javier Baez had two hits each and a passel of Cubs relievers... well, perhaps we should end the story there.
A much better time was had by another sellout throng (15,266) in Mesa, who saw the Cubs annihilate the Rockies 18-4. Truth be told, everyone could have gone home after the first inning, as the Cubs sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven times. That included a couple of errors and some really poor pitching from Jon Gray, who was selected one pick after Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft. Many here, as I recall, wanted the Cubs to pick Gray. Looks like they made the right choice in Bryant, who doubled off Gray. Four batters later, Jake Arrieta stepped to the plate with two men on base and slammed a long home run -- the only Cub homer of the day, as it would turn out, despite the Cubs putting together an offensive onslaught that included 21 hits and six walks, along with assorted Rockies errors, wild pitches and generally poor play.
The Rockies might be the worst team I've seen all spring. Granted, two of their best players (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the latter of whom might be injured again) didn't make the trip over from Talking Stick, but man, this is just not a good team. They had run through four pitchers by the third inning and about an inning later I saw two men wearing Rockies uniforms No. 80 and 81 trudge slowly across the outfield from the area where the visiting team bus parks over to the bullpen in right field. I figured they must have called over to their complex and said, "Send reinforcements!" No. 81, Ryan Arrowood, wound up in the game, throwing in the seventh and eighth innings. Not one of Colorado's eight pitchers recorded more than five outs.
The Cubs, meanwhile, feasted on Rockies pitching. Bryant went 4-for-5 with no homers, the slacker, and Arrieta added an RBI double to his home run. David Ross added three hits and Matt Szczur scored three runs. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit. After all of that, the minor-leaguers took over for both sides and play over the last few innings was sloppy. Jason Motte had another mediocre outing, though two of the three runs he was charged with scored after he left the game. Matt Brazis, the righthander the Cubs acquired for Justin Ruggiano, threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Arrieta, apart from his batting prowess, also pitched quite well. He threw four innings and allowed three singles before departing, probably in part due to the heat (another 95-degree day that had many in the stands leaving by the middle innings) and long batting innings from the Cubs. Even with that, Arrieta went and threw another 30 pitches or so in the bullpen:
And then pronounced the day a good one:
#Cubs Arrieta threw extra 30 pitches in 'pen after 4 IP in game. Says everything was crisp. "It was a good work day"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2015
I would concur. Arrieta seems ready to go for the season and looks like he'll pick up where he left off. He will throw in a minor-league game Thursday, which is a Cubs off day.
The sellout Saturday raised the Cubs' spring attendance total to 193,716, an average of 14,901. There are two dates remaining, Monday vs. the Giants and Wednesday vs. the Brewers; tickets, I understand, are available for both.
Sunday, Edwin Jackson gets another chance, as he'll be facing the Royals at Surprise. My personal recommendation for Edwin: take the team bus over there. Edinson Volquez will start for Kansas City.