MESA, Arizona -- Wins, as you know, mean nothing in the Cactus League.
Nevertheless, watching the boys in blue walk off the field high-fiving and hearing "Go Cubs Go" is always a pleasant experience, and the Cubs broke a seven-game spring losing streak Friday afternoon with a 7-4 win over the Reds.
Beyond the victory, there were some important performances in this game to discuss, so let's have at it.
John Lackey made his first spring start and struck out the side in the first inning. That's good, but the home run he allowed to Jose Peraza to give the Reds a 1-0 lead in that inning wasn't. Lackey allowed a second-inning single and three fly-ball outs in that frame, and then got touched up for two more runs on three singles and a walk in the third. It might have been more, but he got out of it with a nice 3-6-1 double play.
All in all, not great, but not awful either. His velocity seemed fine and for the most part, he was locating well.
The Cubs, who have fallen behind in many games this spring, this time generated some offense early. Anthony Rizzo scored twice, first on an Addison Russell single after a double in the second, then on a two-run homer by Miguel Montero in the fourth, which highlighted a three-run inning. Montero, who is 7-for-12 this spring, has homered twice.
The homer gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead which they never relinquished. Drew Rucinski, who won't make this team, threw two somewhat-shaky scoreless innings. He allowed a hit and issued three walks; since the Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the fourth, he got the "win" for this one. Then the "real" bullpen guys, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez, set the side down in order in the sixth and seventh.
Granted they were doing it against Reds minor leaguers (and the Reds brought over only a couple of recognizable names on a split-squad day), and Ramirez's outing in particular was something that gave hope that he might be able to make the bullpen after all. He struck out one and retired the other two hitters on fly balls to center, looked like he had good velocity, command and control. I'd love to see him get back to where he was before last year's injury.
The other Cubs runs scored on solo homers by Dan Vogelbach and Tim Federowicz and an RBI single by Munenori Kawasaki. Kawasaki has little chance of making this roster, either, but I enjoy watching him play. He's got excellent range and a good arm at shortstop and although I realize spring hitting numbers mean almost nothing, he's shown a decent bat so far this spring. I'd certainly like to see him stay in the organization and play at Iowa in case the Cubs need an injury replacement infielder this season. Plus, he's fun:
Spencer Patton, who pitched in relief for the Rangers last year but who also appears headed to Iowa, struck out three Reds minor leaguers in the ninth to post a save.
Attendance watch: Another sellout of 15,256 raises the spring total for six home dates to 87,649, or 14,608 per date. I heard lawn tickets (season ticket price $10) were being sold for as much as $30 today, and it'll likely be the same Saturday with the White Sox the opponent and another sellout expected.
Saturday is a split-squad day, with the Mesa game against the White Sox in the afternoon and then a night game (8:05 p.m. CT) in Glendale against the Dodgers. Jason Hammel will face Erik Johnson in the Sloan Park game (radio on 670 The Score) and Trevor Cahill starts at Glendale against Brandon Beachy.