The Cubs fashioned a 2-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single by Kyle Schwarber and a sac fly from Albert Almora Jr. They scored one more in the third, on another sac fly, this one from Ian Happ.
Kyle Hendricks, again breezing through most of the Rox lineup, got touched up for three straight singles after two were out in the last of the fourth, scoring two runs. In general, Hendricks looked fine and again ready to start the season. He was removed with two out in the fifth, presumably because he had reached a pitch count limit (he threw 64 pitches, probably limited to 65 on a very hot afternoon).
That score held up through a number of big-league relievers, including Justin Grimm, Wade Davis and Koji Uehara for the Cubs and Greg Holland and our old buddy Jason Motte for the Rox.
Seven innings were completed in just over two hours.
And then... minor-league relievers entered and the eighth inning took about 40 minutes to complete. Cubs regulars were still in the game when Rockies reliever Jairo Diaz entered. He retired the first two hitters he faced, then gave up a single to Miguel Montero. Then this happened:
Matt Szczur’s two-run homer made it 5-2, but the Cubs weren’t done. They had three more hits, two walks and a hit batsman in the inning, winding up with 11 men taking a turn at bat and six runs scoring. Szczur was 3-for-4 on the afternoon and is hitting .387 this spring. I certainly hope he makes the 25-man roster. His main competition, Tommy La Stella, went 1-for-4 and is hitting .227 so far. Yes, I know, spring results, minor-league pitchers, etc. But I think Szczur is more valuable to this team. TLS did make a nice play in the field, snaring a line drive off the bat of Pat Valaika (Chris’ younger brother) in the seventh.
Alec Mills wasn’t any better for the Cubs in the last of the eighth, though the minor leaguers behind him on the field didn’t do him any favors. A catchable ball dropped for a single, then Jason Vosler made an error. After that Mills seemed to lose it. He issued a walk, got a called third strike, then gave up hits to three of the next four hitters. The four-run inning made it relatively close at 9-6, though only two of the four runs off Mills were earned.
He recovered for a scoreless ninth, leaving Dylan Floro, the only Cubs pitcher making the trip over who didn’t throw in the game, warming up in the bullpen.
Again, a large crowd over the listed capacity (12,500) at Talking Stick attended this game — 13,380, about half Cubs fans.
I’m going to make this recap a bit abbreviated as at 7:30 p.m. CT, there will be a preview & game thread for the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Puerto Rico and the Netherlands posted here. Enjoy the WBC game — the Cubs have Tuesday off and will resume the spring schedule Wednesday evening (8:05 p.m. CT) against the Reds at Goodyear.