SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — The Cubs brought their hitting shoes on the bus to Surprise Sunday afternoon, apparently, as Tommy La Stella, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras all hit home runs. It appeared the Cubs were on their way to an easy win, but bullpen failures led to yet another tie game, 9-9, the Cubs’ third of the spring season.
But back to the good stuff. Best of all about the home runs: These were hit without any of the Cubs’ real big bats in the lineup, as most of the regulars had Sunday off.
La Stella is fighting for the last spot on the 25-man roster. Remember last year when Joe Maddon said of him, “He could fall out of bed at 3 a.m. and hit”? TLS showed that form Sunday, as he also singled and drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly. He’s looked pretty good at the plate after missing a few days with a hamstring issue.
Almora (whose jersey, shown above, was inexplicably missing the “Jr.” that’s usually on the back), came up in the fifth inning after La Stella’s single, Contreras reaching on an error and a single by Jeimer Candelario and did this:
.@albertalmora, party of four? pic.twitter.com/atmOWmATSW— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 5, 2017
That made the score 7-5 Cubs after some sketchy pitching had given the Rangers five runs in the second and third. Jon Lester had an easy 1-2-3 first, but with two runners on base and two out in the second, Will Middlebrooks doubled them both in. Middlebrooks and Lester were once Boston teammates and Will homered off Jon at Wrigley in 2015, not that such a thing would mean anything two years later, just thought it was an interesting footnote.
Wade Davis made his Cubs debut and it wasn’t good. He walked the first hitter he faced (Carlos Gomez) and then gave up three straight singles, scoring two runs. After Davis struck out Rougned Odor, Joe Maddon lifted him. That was 19 pitches in, and I suppose Davis had reached a pitch limit. Maybe he was throwing mostly fastballs, which is a common thing in spring training. Here’s hoping the next outing is better.
Contreras joined in the Cubs home-run fun in the sixth:
Little two-run knock. pic.twitter.com/nTlnY37v5s— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 5, 2017
After that, Koji Uehara and Justin Grimm worked 1-2-3 innings, so that’s good. Alec Mills, who will likely be in the Iowa rotation this year, threw one good inning, but got in trouble in his second inning of work and served up a two-run homer to Rangers prospect Drew Robinson.
Caleb Smith, throwing the eighth, gave up a pair of round-trippers, to Jared Hoying and Jason Martinson. He struggled again in the ninth, allowing a double and hitting a batter before finishing off the tie with a nice curveball for a called strikeout. Smith was a longshot to make the team and the Rangers broadcast team said that it had gotten somewhat breezy toward the end of the game, so this probably doesn’t change the Cubs’ plans to (most likely) try to work out a deal with the Yankees so they can keep Smith at Iowa this year.
Chris Dominguez, who will probably play first base at Iowa this year, made another nice defensive play. He’s very good in the field; if he didn’t strike out so much he might have had a decent big-league career.
The game was long at 3:29, but as it featured 28 hits, three mid-inning pitching changes and 18 runs scored, the pace certainly wasn’t an issue.
Monday, the Cubs visit Tempe to face the Angels. Jake Arrieta goes for the Cubs and Jesse Chavez for the Angels.