MESA, Arizona — If you like fast-paced baseball games, this was not the one for you.
The Athletics and Cubs combined for 24 hits, 15 walks and 17 runs in a game that took nearly four hours. The weather was gorgeous and the baseball entertaining despite the length of the game, so I’m going to close the complaint department today despite the Cubs losing the game 9-8.
Let’s talk about the good stuff first. After starting slowly offensively off A’s starter Raul Alcantara, the Cubs got to him in the third when Kyle Schwarber singled and Kris Bryant homered, his second of the spring, to the opposite field. Here’s why that’s important: Bryant had told reporters earlier that he was working on that this spring, and there’s a good result from that work.
The Cubs had that 2-0 lead sliced in half in the bottom of the inning on a pair of walks, a pair of stolen bases (off Miguel Montero and Jake Arrieta) and a sacrifice fly. Jake pitched reasonably well, apart from the walks — he walked three, but gave up no hits. This was a pattern he had through much of last season, too many walks, and I’m hoping this is not going to continue this season. Of the 12 batters he faced, only four of them hit a fair ball (the other eight either struck out or walked), so that’s good. Here’s the cryptic comment Jake made after the game:
#Cubs Arrieta said he felt fine except for 8 pitches he threw in 3rd inning when he felt left-handed— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 12, 2017
I’m not sure what that means. If you have any thoughts, feel free to add them.
The Cubs put three more on the board in the fourth, two of them on a double by Anthony Rizzo, who earlier in the game had cracked a press-box window with a foul ball:
Later, they made this very attractive fix to that:
Two more Cubs runs scored in the fifth on a triple — yes, triple! — by Schwarber:
About 10 more feet and that would have cleared the hitters’ background. Truth be told, I’m not sure why the yellow HR line doesn’t go all the way around the field, including in center field. That really should have been a home run. However, since it was in play, we got to see Schwarber chug into third base with the triple, standing up. He was running well, with no sign at all of last year’s knee injury. He also made a nice catch in left field.
So the Cubs are leading 7-1 after five, with Koji Uehara and Justin Grimm throwing scoreless frames.
Then Williams Perez came into the game. Perez, who made 31 starts for the Braves over the last two years (and not very successfully, he had an ERA north of 5.00), signed with the Cubs as a free agent in January.
Perez got cuffed around by the A’s. After a walk and a double, Yonder Alonso smashed a three-run homer and Marcus Semien tripled and scored on a groundout, making the score 7-5 after six.
OK, that’s to be expected in games like this, Perez isn’t anywhere near the Cubs’ 25-man roster.
But Rob Zastryzny might be, and that’s why his outing was concerning. I’m pretty sure Joe Maddon had him penciled in to throw two innings, but he faced six batters and didn’t retire any of them, the sequence going: walk, single, single, walk, walk, single, Maddon’s trip to the mound to replace him with minor leaguer Michael Wagner. Wagner allowed a sac fly — which was a really nice diving catch by Jacob Hannemann in center field — but retired all the batters he faced. That sac fly, the A’s ninth run, turned out to be the difference in the game.
So, to sum up: Rizzo, Bryant and Schwarber had very good days. Jake’s outing was a bit shaky, but good enough. And Zaz was awful. Someone I spoke to who watched Zaz warm up said he didn’t look good in the pen, either. I hope there’s no injury issue with him.
Even in HoHoKam’s third year as the A’s home park, it’s still strange to be there as a fan of the visiting team. It feels the same, even with the green paint job, and today it felt more like the Cubs’ home park as nearly three-quarters of the fans were dressed in Cubs gear. The announced crowd of 10,606 was the A’s largest of the spring, over 2,000 more than the next-biggest (8,203 against the Giants on March 3).
Lastly, I thought you might like to have a look at this. The center-field camera for CSN California’s broadcast was set up very close to the berm, close enough for me to catch this photo of the “cheat sheet” camera operators get so they can identify players:
Monday, the Cubs travel to Peoria to face the Padres. John Lackey will go for the Cubs and Luis Perdomo will start for San Diego.