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Cubs 7, Brewers 7: Fit To Be Tied

The Cubs were one strike away from victory... twice.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — Had this sort of thing happened in a regular-season game, I, and you, would probably be pretty upset.

But it’s the middle of March and it’s spring training and wins and losses mean nothing, especially when the pitches are being thrown by a reliever who was reassigned to the minor-league camp Monday and the batters are Single-A and Double-A hitters.

Jose Rosario retired the first two batters in the ninth with a 6-5 lead. Then he got to strike two on each of the next two, but walked both of them. The next hitter, Dustin Houle, an eighth-round pick who’s barely played above A ball, singled. Eloy Jimenez charged the ball as one run scored, and... well, I don’t even know if I can describe the throw, which went in the general direction of the third-base dugout. It bounced near the folding chairs where the coaches sit and into the third row of seats, scoring a second run.

I honestly don’t know what happened to Eloy there; he’s played reasonably good defense in the times I’ve seen him play. That time... not so much.

The Brewers thus took a 7-6 lead into the last of the ninth, but Chris Dominguez smashed a home run well onto the left-field berm off Tyler Cravy, who we’ve seen pitch against the Cubs before. The next three hitters went down 1-2-3 and so the game ended in a 7-7 tie, the Cubs’ fourth of the spring. I am now officially out of “tie” phrases to use, so either the Cubs have to not have any more of them this spring, or perhaps you all can suggest some.

Now let’s go back to the beginning of the game and talk about the performances of the Cubs who’ll matter this year. Brett Anderson threw three innings, and even though he gave up two runs, the Brewers scored them with only one ball leaving the infield, a double by catcher Rene Garcia. The next ball was hit in the general direction of Ben Zobrist, but it went for a hit, scoring a run. Kris Bryant couldn’t pick up the next grounder, another infield single. A walk loaded the bases and an infield out scored the second run. I thought, in general, Anderson looked pretty good. He was getting ground balls, which is his specialty.

The Cubs had previously scored a single run in the first on Bryant’s third homer of the spring. Willson Contreras knotted the game 2-2 with a solo shot in the bottom of the second, also his third. That followed a single by Jason Heyward — his first Sloan Park hit of the spring — but Heyward was thrown out trying to steal before Willson’s blast.

Then the Cubs opened up for four runs in the third. Zobrist and Byrant walked and Addison Russell doubled them in. Heyward followed with a double to deep center, scoring Russell, and Contreras singled Heyward in. Heyward’s first hit was a bleeder that just got through, but the double was hit with authority. His third at-bat was a foul popup. Baby steps. I did think he looked much better at the plate in this one.

So it’s 6-2 after three and Mike Montgomery entered and did not look good, no he did not, not at all. He might have had better luck in the fourth, as Bryant made an error allowing Garcia to reach. The Brewers then posted two straight singles, scoring a run, and a wild pitch advanced both runners, and then another run scored on an infield out.

Eric Thames, who the Brewers hope will provide the power they lost when Chris Carter left to free agency, hit a long home run off Montgomery in the fifth that made it 6-5. Monty issued another walk, got out of it with a double-play ball, then gave up a double before ending the inning on a called third strike.

Monty’s third inning was scoreless, but he gave up another double (to Travis Shaw) and it might have been worse if Bryant hadn’t made a nice grab of a screaming liner that appeared headed to the left-field corner to end the frame.

So this “hybrid” thing that Joe Maddon is thinking about with Anderson and Montgomery might have to have some further thinking. Right now it appears to me that Anderson has won the fifth-starter spot and Montgomery goes to the bullpen for a role similar to what he did last year, relief and an occasional “sixth starter” spot.

After the fourth inning, 12 Cubs in a row were retired until Dominguez hit the home run to tie the game. This Brewers squad wasn’t anything like the ones we’ll see during the season. Only four players who will be Milwaukee regulars were in the game (shortstop Orlando Arcia, right fielder Domingo Santana, Thames, and Shaw). And here’s a comment from Brewers starter Zach Davies, who has handled the Cubs well in the past:

This is why spring results don’t mean very much. That statement tells you that Davies wasn’t throwing his best stuff.

It was really, really hot in Mesa Tuesday, listed as 91 at game time, the temperature indicator in my car said 97 when I left, and while hot weather is typical for the Phoenix area, not this hot, not this early. The average high for this date is 76.

That didn’t stop Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts from coming out to sign autographs for fans:

Al Yellon

And it didn’t stop another huge crowd, 15,478, from attending. That makes the season total for nine dates 134,187, or 14,910 per date.

Wednesday will be the first of two home night games this spring. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Taijuan Walker for the Diamondbacks. A reminder that with the time change, the 7:05 p.m. Arizona time start means 9:05 p.m. CT.