MESA, Arizona -- In spring training, teams sometimes play a "B" game. That is, a game not on the official schedule, often agreed-to at the last minute, and the statistics don't count on the official spring-training stat log.
That wasn't what happened at Sloan Park on Sunday. Instead, we had a "bee" game, held up for a few minutes in the top of the third inning when Jason Heyward got swarmed by bees:
For a minute it looked like Heyward was going to vault the center-field fence and "bee" with the fans on the berm. That, at least, would have been funny, but it certainly didn't look like Heyward was getting any sort of buzz from the day's events. It could have been bad news:
#Cubs Heyward says he was stung more than 10 times by the bees. Fortunately he's not allergic— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 27, 2016
Later, part of the swarm headed for the area near the left-field corner. You can see some of them here. Our part of the berm cleared out underneath the overhang of the left-field party deck, and some of the left-field fans also left their seats, as did the entire Cubs bullpen:
So, the teams shared the right-field bullpen for the balance of the game. That had to "bee" an interesting experience. Here's why the Cubs had to leave the bullpen (all photos by Danny Rockett):
Oh, yes, the game, a 12-9 stinging of the Cubs by the Mariners. Well, not bee-ing a very pleasurable experience for Jason Hammel was Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who hit a two-run homer in the first and a three-run blast in the second inning off Hammel, who gave up nine earned runs and didn't finish the fifth inning.
To be fair, Hammel should have been out of the second inning with no damage. A pop fly down the left-field line by Ketel Marte was swarmed around by three Cubs and eventually landed just out of the reach of Addison Russell. That scored two runs, and then Cano followed with his second homer of the game. Hammel could have given up no runs that inning; instead, five crossed the plate and Seattle had a 7-1 lead.
The one Cub run to that point had been delivered by Dexter Fowler, who homered to the opposite field off James Paxton. Something might have happened to Fowler on that home-run swing, because:
#Cubs Fowler exited with tightness on his left side. It's considered mild. He did hit a HR in 1st— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 27, 2016
Hopefully, this will bee-hoove nothing more than a couple of days off for Fowler and he'll be ready for Opening Night in Anaheim.
The Cubs put up a five-spot of their own in the third, with the big blow being a three-run homer by Russell, his fourth of the spring. Heyward also homered in that inning. All told, there were six homers in the game, as Cano hit another one in the eighth off Trevor Cahill and Matt Szczur, who's still got an outside shot at the 25-man roster, hit one off Vidal Nuno. That one, also in the eighth, made the score 12-9, but that was as close as the Cubs could bee-labor the Mariners' pitching staff.
Cahill went three innings in relief and seemed to tire after the second one, issuing a two-out walk and the homer to Cano. Adam Warren threw a scoreless ninth and struck out two.
Attendance watch: 15,438 (and an uncounted number of bees) attended Sunday's game. The sellout brought the season total for 13 dates to 196,586, or an average of 15,122. The Cubs must draw 25,830 over the final two home dates Tuesday and Wednesday (average 12,915) to break last year's record of 222,415 (average of 14,828). Both of last year's marks were all-time spring-training records for any team. As of this writing only lawn tickets (at $12) are available for Tuesday, and lawn ($12) and the left-field party deck ($15) for Wednesday. So the attendance record will almost certainly fall, and probably by about 5,000 or so.
Monday, the Cubs will bee in Tempe to face the Angels. Kyle Hendricks will face Nick Tropeano, or that's the buzz, anyway. I'll stop droning on now, I promise.