MESA, Arizona -- Earlier Tuesday, Matt Szczur learned he'd be on the Cubs' Opening Day roster for the first time. (A big deal, really, as he was sent up and down from Iowa seven different times last year.)
Szczur celebrated by going 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and the Cubs defeated the Athletics 9-5 before another sellout at Sloan Park.
Here's the Szczur blast:
The other big story of the game was Jake Arrieta, who showed no ill effects from the blister that chased him from his last start in the first inning. Jake had a bit of trouble with command in the first inning, when a walk, a stolen base and a double led to a run. But he finished off five innings, threw 102 pitches, and allowed just the one run while striking out five. Jake says there are no worries going into his scheduled Opening Night start at Anaheim next Monday:
#Cubs Arrieta says blister is a "non-issue." Will be ready Monday for opener. Adds, "I like where I'm at going into our first game"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 29, 2016
The Cubs hit four other homers, one each by Kyle Schwarber (leading off the first inning), Addison Russell (his fifth, and I really like what I've seen from Russell power-wise this spring), David Ross (!) and the just-cut Munenori Kawasaki, and the Mune homer is worth a look for the bat flip:
Awesome. Even though he'll be at Iowa to start the year, I'm sure we'll see Mune at some point during the year.
Anthony Rizzo got into an odd little collision with the A's Andrew Lambo and had to leave the game:
#Cubs Rizzo collided awkwardly with Lambo in the A's 4th. He's now out of the game.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 29, 2016
Fortunately, everything's all right with him:
#Cubs Rizzo says he's fine. Was coming out of the game after the 4th inning anyways— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 29, 2016
Travis Wood struggled through two innings, allowing a solo homer and a double in each one, one to his old teammate Chris Coghlan (and really, Wood should be getting lefthanded hitters like that out). The wind, blowing out to right field, helped several of the homers today and also a pop-fly double by Miguel Montero in the fifth ahead of Russell's blast. Montero's popup likely would have landed foul in the seats, but the wind blew it back onto the field and behind and out of the reach of left fielder Lambo.
Pedro Strop threw an uneventful scoreless inning, and Hector Rondon was on target for a save with a 5-3 lead, but the sub Cubs scored four runs in the eighth, capped by Kawasaki's homer. Whether that had any effect on Hector, I don't know, but he seemed to relax a bit with a six-run lead. Three singles and two sacrifice flies scored a pair for the A's before Rondon got the last out on a fly to left.
The day dawned cloudy and drizzly but by the early innings the sun was out and despite the 63-degree temperature, it felt warm with the sun, although things were blowing around much of the park and the stands with the 17 mile-per-hour wind to right field.
Attendance watch: Another sellout of 15,469 brought the season total to 212,052 for 14 dates, an average of 15,147. To break the all-time spring record the Cubs set last year (222,415), they must have a crowd of 10,364, which seems doable. The record will likely fall by about 5,000 total, or maybe 350 per date.
The Cactus League season ends Wednesday with the Rockies visiting Sloan Park. Jon Lester will face David Hale. It'll be the last game this year not televised.