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Giants 5, Cubs 2: Time To Get Serious

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One week from Monday, the regular season begins.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona -- The Cubs lost to the Giants 5-2 Saturday afternoon in Mesa and one thing that struck me is that my scorecard for this game looked very similar to the scorecard for the first spring game, three weeks ago.

That is, only a handful of regulars playing in the game and a bunch of guys from the minor-league camp substituting for them.

Wouldn't you think that around now would be the time where these games start to be played more like regular-season games? To get most of the starters in on a more-or-less daily basis, and then if and when you pull them, to play actual subs that might be on the 25-man roster?

I get it that most major-league players and management think that spring training is too long, that they don't need 30+ games to get ready, and that these games have become profit centers rather than actual preparation. At some point, though, you'd think the preparation should get a little more ramped up. Perhaps tomorrow.

John Lackey got hit in the first inning, allowing three hits and a pair of runs, and the Giants stole two bases off Miguel Montero. He also allowed a homer to Matt Duffy in the third (Duffy, incidentally, flashed some glove in this game). As Lackey batted in the bottom of the fifth (struck out), I assume Joe Maddon wanted him to throw the sixth. But after the first two hitters reached, Maddon lifted Lackey for Clayton Richard, who was pretty bad Friday. Now, here's a good idea: see how he comes back the next day after a bad outing.

Richard let both of Lackey's runners score, one on a single, one on a sac fly, but otherwise threw a decent inning. He allowed two hits, but one was an infield dribbler. So, Friday's outing for Richard was probably the anomaly.

Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon both threw in this game after pitching an inning each on Friday, and both were good, though against Giants minor leaguers. Okay, so there's a small way of beginning to prepare for the regular season, as this was the first time both those men had thrown on consecutive days. It worked out well.

Manny Parra, who has a small chance of making this roster if the Cubs want to keep a traditional LOOGY, struck out the side in the ninth. He's pitched well this spring and I hope the Cubs can keep him at Iowa, as he could be useful during the season.

Offensively, the Cubs did little against our old buddy Jeff Samardzija, who retired the first 11 Cubs before Kyle Schwarber singled in the third. Two doubles in the fourth, one by Munenori Kawasaki still trying to show he belongs on this roster, produced a run, and Addison Russell accounted for the other Cubs run with a home run, his third of the spring.

Here's where I'd probably post a Cubs highlight, preferably Russell's homer, but it's not in the video list for this game. Instead, here's a nine-minute interview with Theo Epstein that was done on WGN in the fifth inning with Len and JD about preparations for the season, discussing some of the things I was alluding to in the beginning of this recap. It's worth watching if you didn't see it during the game:

I know I'm ready for the season to start and I'm sure the players are, too.

Attendance watch: Another sellout of 15,403 brought the season total to 181,148 for 12 dates, or 15,096 per date. That average figure will produce an all-time spring-training record (breaking last year's) if it holds up.

Sunday, the Cubs host the Mariners at Sloan Park. Jason Hammel will face James Paxton.