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Cubs 3, Athletics 3: Fit To Be Tied

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This was a really good game for the Cubs... until the bottom of the ninth.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona -- There are a lot of good things to tell you about this game, but let me start with the bad: Hector Rondon.

This was just Hector's third appearance of the spring and he was... not good. Not good at all. Even two of the outs he managed to record in the ninth inning were hard-hit (a line drive to second and a sacrifice fly). In between, he allowed three singles and a walk, and three Athletics runs scored before Hector ended the inning with a strikeout, and the game was called by mutual agreement in a 3-3 tie, the first tie for the Cubs this spring.

Joe Maddon has said he wants to limit innings for Rondon and Pedro Strop, and this game was the first one this spring in which Strop and Rondon appeared in their usual roles, Strop in the eighth and Rondon in the ninth. It was the first outing for Pedro and he was very good, retiring some A's minor leaguers 1-2-3.

But Hector? I don't know what went wrong. Does he need more regular work? Or was he just off his game for one outing and he'll be fine the next time? In any case, if you're going to have one like this, better in spring training than after April 4.

Before that, the Cubs were fashioning a very nice game with mostly subs, as pretty much everyone played in the split squad game Saturday. Only four players likely to be on the 25-man roster (Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and David Ross) played in this one. The Cubs scored a pair in the first inning. Rizzo hit the first pitch he saw for a booming double and Baez walked. Two wild pitches scored Rizzo, but Baez tried to score from second on the second wild one and was thrown out. Pity, as he'd have scored one batter later on a home run by Jeimer Candelario.

Kyle Hendricks was excellent Sunday afternoon, his second straight scoreless outing and his first of four innings. He was locating well and struck out five and was also aided by three outstanding defensive plays. Baez made a diving stop and threw out Yonder Alonso in the second inning. Munenori Kawasaki, who looks more impressive every time he plays, made a tumbling catch of a popup into short left off the bat of Coco Crisp. And Kyle Schwarber, playing left field and in the lineup for the first time since Thursday, made a running catch on a deep fly ball by Eric Sogard in the third inning, running into the pads while doing it. Guess his knee's OK.

The Cubs could possibly have scored more runs in the middle innings, as they had two men on with one out in both the fourth and sixth, but A's pitching got out of both jams with double plays. John Andreoli homered in the seventh, his second, for the third and final Cubs run.

Travis Wood threw two solid innings, though he did allow a pair of singles and a double, and Manny Parra threw the seventh without allowing a run, though he did put the first two runners on base before getting out of the inning unscathed, including a pair of strikeouts.

All of that, plus Strop's good eighth, would have made for a fine win for the Cubs if Rondon had just done his part. But as I said, better get stuff like that out of the way now than later.

A sellout at HoHoKam Stadium (no longer "Park") Sunday afternoon, 10,040, was at least half Cubs fans, though A's fans cheered loudly during their three-run ninth. It's still odd to go back there and not be the home team. The surroundings are familiar, though different (it's all painted green-and-gold now), and I probably attended over 100 Cubs spring games there from 1997-2013.

Interesting juxtaposition: though the A's turned over all their batting-order positions and used six pitchers, all of their players were either 40-man roster guys or official non-roster invitees, while the Cubs used five players from the minor-league camp. Part of that, of course, was Saturday's split-squad games, which meant days off for many regulars. I'd expect fewer guys from the minor-league camp in big-league spring games starting Monday, as the minor leaguers begin playing their own games.

Also Monday, Jake Arrieta makes his second spring start, facing the Padres at Sloan Park. San Diego counters with Colin Rea.