If only Thursday's 5-1 Cubs win over the Mets had happened in front of a frenzied full house at Wrigley Field last fall, instead of what seemed to be a somewhat-disinterested 11,025 at Cashman Field in Las Vegas, thousands of miles from either club's home park.
It was clear that the teams were treating this game differently. The Cubs started many of their regulars (except Dexter Fowler, still out with the strained side he suffered last weekend), but most of them departed after the Cubs' three-run fifth, highlighted by RBI singles from Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant, and a nicely-executed squeeze bunt by Trevor Cahill that scored Jason Heyward:
Zobrist went 2-for-4; unlike Cubs hitters, he did well against the Mets last October (6-for-23 with four runs scored in the World Series). Hopefully, he can keep that up when the two teams meet in the regular season this year.
Cahill was the only Cubs hurler who allowed a run, hurt by his own wild pitch that allowed David Wright to advance to second, where he scored on a single by Lucas Duda. Other than Cahill, Cubs pitchers gave the Mets five other hits all evening, all singles except for one double (by Duda) off Hector Rondon. Cubs starter Ryan Williams got hit by a comebacker, but he's fine:
FYI, #Cubs RHP Ryan Williams is good. Comebacker hit him on lower right hamstring. All is well— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 1, 2016
Williams is a prospect to watch, in my view. He's dominated every level he's thrown at in his two years in the Cubs system and should be a rotation anchor at Iowa this year. Someone to watch for a rotation spot in future years, I think.
The Mets, unlike the Cubs, had their regular lineup play almost the entire game. They allowed Paul Sewald and Chase Bradford, two Las Vegas natives now in their farm system, to throw most of the first five innings. Bradford allowed three of the Cubs runs, just one earned due to his own fielding error. Sewald has put up a terrific K/BB ratio in the Mets system (5.6) and a 0.83 WHIP, while topping out (so far) at Double-A. He looks like he could be a useful addition to the Mets bullpen someday.
There isn't much more to say about this rather odd interregnum between the Cactus League schedule and Opening Night in Anaheim Monday. I'm sure that the folks who live in Las Vegas enjoy these games (though perhaps not the ticket prices!), as well as some Cubs fans who traveled from Mesa to Vegas for the weekend. For me, I'm hanging out in Arizona for a few days and will watch the opening series in Anaheim here before heading back to Chicago the middle of next week.
Friday, the Cubs and Mets meet again in an afternoon contest (3:05 CT) featuring Jason Hammel against Steven Matz. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.