MESA, Arizona — Here are the two biggest takeaways from the Cubs’ 10-7 loss to the Giants Tuesday afternoon:
- Jake Arrieta looks ready to go, despite a shaky first inning.
- Pierce Johnson needs a lot of work before he can be a decent relief pitcher.
Now I’ll go back to the beginning. Jake allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Denard Span. He also gave up three more hits in the first, plating another run. He did strike out the side, but not until he had hit a batter and thrown about 35 pitches.
And then... he got better. He retired 13 of the last 15 hitters he faced, with four more strikeouts. Span reached on an infield hit in the second, stole second and scored all the way from second base when Miguel Montero kicked around a wild pitch.
But overall, I thought Jake looked fine. Here’s what he said about the season to come:
Arrieta on feeling in #Cubs clubhouse: "Everybody's hungry. ... I don't think anybody is complacent"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2017
The Cubs got two of the runs back in the third on a homer by Chesny Young after Jake had singled. Young is hitting .327/.365/.531 (16-for-49) this spring with three home runs. Yes, I realize this is spring training, but Young hit only four home runs all last year at Double-A Tennessee. If he’s really developed some power, there might be a big-league future for him.
Mike Montgomery relieved Arrieta and had one good inning and one bad one. In the bad one, a walk helped lead to a pair of runs. With two out and runners on first and third, Montgomery gave up a long double to Giants pitcher Matt Cain (who’s actually a pretty good hitter) that made the score 5-2 Giants going to the bottom of the sixth.
That’s when the Cubs had one of their best innings of the spring. Jason Heyward led off with a double that was probably the best swing he’s had all spring, squaring up the ball real well. If he can keep swinging like that, a good season could happen for him. Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella had RBI singles in the inning and Ian Happ, batting for Montgomery, smacked a two-run double to complete the four-run inning.
Ahead 6-5, the Cubs added a run in the seventh on a homer by Yasiel Balaguert.
Brian Duensing, who hasn’t had a good spring and has had some back trouble, threw two really good innings in this one, retiring all six batters he faced. He had some defensive help from Happ, who made a nice running catch, and La Stella, who made a diving catch of a line drive off the bat of pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez.
And that should have been it, except that Johnson couldn’t close the deal, and this was against Giants minor leaguers and non-roster guys. With one out, Hunter Cole doubled and Gorkys Hernandez reached on a dribbler down the third-base line when Stephen Bruno’s throw pulled Balaguert off first base.
Chris Marrero then smashed a long three-run homer just to the right of the center-field hitter’s background. And as if that weren’t enough, former Cub Justin Ruggiano followed that with another homer to dead center field. And if that hadn’t been enough, another former Cub, Tim Federowicz, also homered, although by then Johnson had been removed in favor of Daury Torrez.
I know the Cubs still like Pierce Johnson and hope he can be converted to a successful reliever. It’s only one game, but clearly, he has more work to do.
Attendance watch: Tuesday’s crowd of 15,513 was the largest of the spring season. Unlike most games this spring, there was a significant minority of Giants fans at this one. The season total for 14 games is 211,485, or 15,106 per date. The Cubs need to draw 14,679 to break last year’s record of 226,163. Last year’s average of 15,078 is also a record; another sellout will break that. These are records for all of spring training, both Arizona and Florida. The reasons should be obvious.
Looking ahead to #Cubs at Houston: Thu, Anderson vs McCullers; Fri, Hendricks vs Musgrove— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2017
Meanwhile, John Lackey will go for the Cubs on Wednesday and Kendall Graveman starts for the A’s.