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Athletics 7, Cubs 2: Schwarbomb!

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The sun came out after an overnight rain, but the Cubs bats remained inside, except for a couple of home runs.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — The Cubs made their annual visit to their former spring home, HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, a ballpark only about three miles away from their current one. Many of the current Cubs are new enough to the team that they never had HoHoKam as their home field, as the Cubs last were the home team there in 2013.

The new svelte Kyle Schwarber smashed his third home run of the spring, which was immediately followed by a solo shot by Chris Gimenez, his first in a Cubs uniform. Both of those were off Athletics starter Sean Manaea in the second inning, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

That was all the offense the Cubs could muster, though, and the A’s posted a 7-2 win over Yu Darvish and the visiting Cubs.

Darvish allowed a double and a walk in a scoreless first and then turned up the heat on the A’s, striking out the side in the second, all swinging. A leadoff infield single in the third off Darvish was turned into a double play, and then he struck out Matt Joyce to end the inning.

Two A’s hits among the first three batters in the fourth scored one run and ended Darvish’s afternoon, which I’d have to say was a success; four hits and a walk allowed, but also five strikeouts. Unfortunately, Kyle Ryan allowed a single to Stephen Piscotty upon entering the game. He then struck out Dustin Fowler, but Matt Chapman touched him for a three-run homer to give Oakland a 4-2 lead.

Len Kasper mentioned this on the webcast and I’ll echo him: Watch Matt Chapman this year. In his rookie season last year, he hit 14 home runs in just 84 games and 290 at-bats. The home run Sunday was Chapman’s first hit of the spring, but he was a big power hitter in the A’s farm system (36 homers in 135 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 and 16 round-trippers in just 51 games at those levels in 2017), and they’re expecting big things from him this year.

The Cubs had only two other hits besides the homers, singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, and by the middle innings the usual exodus of the starters happened. Steve Cishek threw a scoreless inning in relief. Then Justin Wilson gave up another homer, that one by backup catcher Sean Murphy, and Justin Grimm was touched for a two-run blast in the eighth by Mark Canha that completed the scoring.

I decided not to go to this game, as I’ve pretty much been there, done that as the visitor at HoHoKam, and the prices ($28 for a lawn ticket) were pretty high. The market must bear those prices, as the A’s got a sellout of 10,029, by far their largest crowd of the year so far (next highest: 5,231 March 3 vs. the Padres), but that doesn’t mean I want or need to spend that much. At least for those who did go, it went by quickly, in two hours, 24 minutes.

Who am I kidding? You’re likely more interested in discussing the signing of Jake Arrieta with the Phillies today than in this recap, so after you’ve given this one a cursory glance, feel free to head over to that post for further talk about Jake.

The Cubs have Monday off, one of two scheduled off days this spring. Cubs spring baseball returns Tuesday with a pair of games. One split squad heads to Peoria to play the Padres at 3:10 p.m. CT. Mike Montgomery will start that one for the Cubs; audio coverage Tuesday on cubs.com, and TV via Fox Sports San Diego will also be carried live on MLB Network, including the Chicago market.

Tuesday evening, the Cubs host the Giants at Sloan Park at 9:05 p.m. CT. Tyler Chatwood will face Madison Bumgarner. Audio only for Tuesday evening via cubs.com.