SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — The Cubs finished the 2017 spring-training season with a record of 13-18, similar to last year’s 11-19 mark (although the five tie games they played were the most of any spring in Cubs history).
Let’s hope the 2017 regular season follows in the wonderful footsteps that 2016 left for history.
Friday’s 6-3 win over the Astros in front of a crowd of 15,420 that again seemed about half Cubs fans wasn’t supposed to be much more than a tune-up:
Plan today re: #Cubs is let regulars get 1 at-bat, then done. If they want more, that's up to them, Maddon says. Opening Day is Sunday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 31, 2017
Apparently the regulars did want more than that. Every starter had at least two at-bats, and Jon Jay had three trips to the plate, with two hits. Jay also did this:
Defensive credit where credit is due, it’s worth a look at this terrific play Astros third baseman Alex Bregman made on Albert Almora Jr. in the fourth:
The game went scoreless into the fifth, when the Cubs scored four runs. Matt Szczur drew a bases-loaded walk for the first run, a wild pitch scored another, and Chesny Young singled to make it 4-0.
Kyle Hendricks is clearly ready for the season. He had another fine outing, throwing five shutout innings, allowing just two singles and a walk. Hendricks, who never, ever looks different on the mound, always with a deadly-serious face and a pitching motion that never seems to vary, had an excellent spring. He threw 21⅔ innings, allowing 18 hits and five walks (1.062 WHIP). He gave up four earned runs (1.66 ERA) and did not allow a home run, a rarity for someone training in the thin air of Arizona.
Even though Kyle is the Cubs’ “No. 5” starter, based on the fact that he’s going to be starting Game No. 5 of the season, he’s clearly higher than that in the hierarchy. The 2016 MLB ERA leader is one of the best pitchers in the game despite not throwing 95+. I like this kind of approach, too:
#Cubs Hendricks said he treated today's start as if it were 1st of the season. He did normal pre game routine, went over scouting report— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 31, 2017
Szczur added an RBI single in the Cubs’ two-run sixth. With the Cubs going with seven relievers to begin the season, Szczur’s presence on the bench gives Joe Maddon quite a bit more flexibility in making defensive replacements or pinch-running assignments.
That concludes the spring-training season for 2017. Best news: no serious injuries for any Cubs, everyone seemed to get the work in that they needed, and all seems ready to go when the season begins Sunday night with a national broadcast on ESPN of the Cubs vs. the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Game time is 7:35 p.m. CT and it’ll be Jon Lester on the mound for the Cubs, Carlos Martinez for the Cardinals.