MESA, Arizona — Forget Wednesday night’s result for a moment — a 7-3 Cubs loss to the Diamondbacks — and instead read what Kyle Hendricks had to say after he left the game:
#Cubs have 2 more weeks in AZ. Hendricks: "We've got the itch. We're ready to go for the season"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 16, 2017
Hendricks sure looked that way to me. His boxscore line (four innings, five hits, two earned runs) might not have shown it, but he appeared in midseason form. He got in trougle in the second inning when Oswaldo Arcia doubled with one out. Hendricks struck out Kristopher Negron, but then hit Evan Marzilli. The next hitter, Jeff Mathis, hit a ground ball to Addison Russell that should have ended the inning, but Addy couldn’t quite handle it and it went for a hit, loading the bases.
Ketel Marte then hit a ball just out of the reach of a diving Kris Bryant, scoring two runs. Even that play had positives, because Kyle Schwarber made a strong throw to Russell, who relayed it to Miguel Montero at the plate to get Mathis to end the inning.
Hendricks struck out five with his signature changeup, you know, the one that hitters know is coming and they still can’t hit it. And after he was done with his four innings in the game, he came over to the left-field bullpen, patiently waited until Wade Davis finished his warmup tosses, and threw about 25 more pitches.
The Cubs got one of those two runs back in the third on a triple from Jon Jay (who turned 32 on Wednesday) and single by Bryant, and then Ben Zobrist and Russell homered [VIDEO] back-to-back [VIDEO] off Taijuan Walker in the fourth to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
This was the first game where all the Cubs starters played seven full innings. And after that fourth inning, which ended with two runners on base when Schwarber struck out, just one Cub reached base (a two-out pinch double by Chris Dominguez in the ninth). That was against several pitchers with big-league experience, including Brian Matusz (Hey! Remember him?), who is in D-backs camp as a non-roster invitee.
Cubs relievers did OK, for a while. Davis allowed a hit and a walk, but got out of his inning in part with the help of Montero, who threw out Marte trying to steal third after a leadoff double. Pedro Strop’s inning went 1-2-3.
Carl Edwards Jr. was not so fortunate. With runners on first and second and two out, Brandon Drury singled to left, scoring one run. Schwarber made an error allowing a second run to score, before CJ got out of the inning with a groundout.
And then we found out why Seth Frankoff isn’t really a big-league pitcher. Facing D-backs minor leaguers, Frankoff allowed three runs over the last two innings, including a home run by Arcia.
But again, the final score means nothing. Hendricks looks ready to go. Cubs regulars piled up seven hits and three runs off a pretty good pitcher (Walker) in four innings.
Seeing a night game in spring training is a different experience. The crowd is different (fewer kids) and the whole vibe feels strange, like you have stumbled on a Double-A game somewhere in the desert. I much prefer day games in the spring, I suppose for no particular reason other than the fact that mostly, it’s always done that way. With temperatures reaching into the mid-90s again Wednesday, though, it wasn’t bad to be outdoors on a pleasant evening as the temps fell through the 70s.
Attendance watch: Another sellout of 15,404 brought the season total to 150,291, or 15,029 per game for the 10 dates so far. Last year’s record average was 15,078, and with the five remaining games sold out (excluding Saturday vs. Japan, which does not count in the official total), that record will fall.
With the Cubs’ (mostly) regular lineup playing seven full innings Wednesday night, I’d expect none of them will make the trip to Glendale to face the Dodgers Thursday afternoon. It would ordinarily be Jon Lester’s turn to pitch, but he’ll throw in a minor-league game at the Sloan Park complex and Eddie Butler will start the game at Camelback Ranch against L.A.’s Hyun-Jin Ryu. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.