MESA, Arizona — Before we get to discussion of the Cubs’ 9-9 tie with the Mariners Monday afternoon, I have a few numbers for you. Game times, to be specific.
First four game times for Cubs games this spring: 2:52, 3:02, 3:58, 3:37. Average: 3:22
First four game times for Cubs games, spring 2017: 2:41, 2:45, 3:10, 3:01. Average: 2:45
All other game times for spring games 2/26/18: 3:19, 3:17, 2:53, 3:11, 2:45, 2:47, 2:56, 3:10, 3:15, 2:55, 3:00, 3:16, 2:43. Average: 3:02
I mean... this is a small sample size and somewhat anecdotal, but if I didn’t know better, I’d think players are deliberately taking longer and trying to slow games down because they don’t like the pace-of-play rule changes instituted by Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Again... I’d need more data and I’d need to watch games more closely to really take note of whether players are dawdling or not, but I can tell you that the games I’ve attended, plus the three-hour, 58-minute monstrosity I watched Sunday, feel as if they’re slower-paced instead of the faster pace the commissioner’s office wants.
We’ll see if this trend continues.
Granted that there were 22 hits, nine walks, four hit batters and 18 runs scored in this mess of a Cubs/Mariners game, along with five mid-inning pitching changes, but this one just dragged. And here’s an ordinary 5-4 game between the Twins and Cardinals Monday that went 3:11.
Now, on to the game details. Tyler Chatwood threw just one inning. The first batter he faced, Dee Gordon, reached on a throwing error by Addison Russell. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then a single put runners on first and third, but Chatwood then induced an inning-ending double play ball.
Chatwood then came down to the Cubs bullpen as if he were going to do some more throwing, but apparently was told he wasn’t needed, and so he departed.
Brian Duensing entered and struck out the first two batters he faced, then got hit hard, including a pair of home runs, one of which was a three-run shot by Gordon, who is definitely not a power hitter (11 career HR in 2,823 at-bats). It appeared Duensing was throwing nothing but fastballs, which isn’t unusual for a veteran at this stage of camp.
A scary moment happened in the bottom of the second inning. With a runner on first and one out, Victor Caratini hit a line drive back to the mound that hit Felix Hernandez in his right arm, right near the elbow. Here’s the aftermath:
Fortunately, it doesn’t appear as serious as it looked at first:
Mariners update: X-ray negative of Hernandez right forearm. He'll be re-evaluated on Tue and is day to day. Was hit by #Cubs Caratini liner— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 26, 2018
That’s good news, that there’s no break, and that he’s only day to day. It sure looked a lot worse when it happened.
Steve Cishek also made his Cubs debut and threw a scoreless inning with one walk.
The Cubs closed to with in 5-2 on a Taylor Davis home run in the fifth, and then non-roster invitee Craig Brooks had a horrendous inning which ended with a grand slam hit by a Mariners minor leaguer with the awesome name of Seth Mejias-Brean. That made it 9-2 and it looked like it would be a loss for the home team.
But the Mariners minor leaguers couldn’t hold the Cubs minor leaguers down. Jack Anderson, a Chicago-area native (born in Evanston) who was a 23rd-round pick of the Mariners in 2016, faced seven Cubs in the eighth. He gave up five hits and hit the other two batters, and by the time the inning was over the Cubs had closed to within 9-7.
Mike Freeman, who I’ve criticized at times for his defense, showed up offensively in the ninth inning, smashing a two-run homer to tie the game. With the clock pushing toward 5:00 and no pitchers left for either side, the game was called as a tie after two groundouts ended the Cubs ninth.
Hey, the weather was nice and it’s baseball. But really, these games do appear to be slower-paced, not faster-paced. We’ll see if this is an aberration or a trend.
Attendance watch: Only 10,021 paid to see this game. I believe that’s the smallest paid crowd in the four-plus seasons of Sloan Park. The early start to spring games and the fact that it’s Monday and the Mariners are not an opponent that brings a lot of their fans is probably why the smallish crowd. That makes the season total for two dates 24,842, or 12,421 per date.
Tuesday, Jon Lester makes his season debut against the White Sox’ Carson Fulmer. Game time is again 2:05 p.m. CT, and there will be TV coverage on WGN, the first TV game with Len and JD this year.