MESA, Arizona — Just moments after the National Anthem was completed at Sloan Park Wednesday evening, this happened:
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for park workers to turn off the sprinklers so the game could begin. And not long after that, Tyler Chatwood began raining strikeouts on the San Francisco Giants. Nine of them, in fact, in five strong innings in which he allowed just two walks and a single.
Solo homers by Ian Happ (his fifth of the spring) and Addison Russell (his first) gave the Cubs all the runs they’d need in a 2-1 win over the Giants that was completed in a swift two hours, 23 minutes.
Chatwood’s game is generally not strikeouts — his career K rate is just 6.1 per nine innings — but he was mixing up his pitches and changing speeds extremely well Tuesday evening, and this wasn’t your typical spring training lineup, either. Evan Longoria (who has a sore foot) didn’t play in this one but otherwise Chatwood was facing what’s likely to be San Francisco’s Opening Day lineup.
Ian Happ led off the bottom of the first inning, and for the third time this spring, the Cubs had a run after his first at-bat [VIDEO].
Not only is that a good sign for smashing a homer off Madison Bumgarner, but it was hit righthanded. Happ had much more power from the left side in 2017 (19 homers hit LH, just five RH), so it’s encouraging to see him hit a home run righthanded.
Does this mean Happ is the Cubs’ leadoff man? Probably not. While Happ will get a lot of playing time, Joe Maddon has to work other players into the lineup. I continue to think that the Cubs’ leadoff spot this season will be determined by matchups.
But having Happ up there has certainly worked well this spring, at least — even though he struck out in his other two plate appearances Wednesday.
The Cubs extended the lead to 2-0 in the fourth when Russell smashed his first spring homer [VIDEO].
The other significant event in this game was a collision at home plate involving former Cub Austin Jackson and Victor Caratini. With one out in the fifth and runners at first and third, Jackson, on third, took off for the plate as Hunter Pence went for second in an attempted double steal.
Caratini threw through to second, but Russell took the throw and sent it back toward the plate. Jackson and Caratini collided — a clean slide, in my opinion, nothing wrong here — and Jackson was out.
But Jackson made contact with Caratini’s knee somehow. Caratini remained in the game for the rest of the inning and then was removed (though he might have been anyway at that point). He had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game:
#Cubs Caratini has sore left knee after getting hit by a pitch and collision at home.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 14, 2018
Hopefully, this is minor and he won’t miss any significant time.
Cubs relievers Brian Duensing, Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. all threw scoreless innings, combining for two singles allowed and two strikeouts. Through eight innings the Giants had just three hits and two walks.
In the ninth, Justin Hancock entered to try to save it. Josh Rutledge hit a ball to deep right field that probably should have been caught, but sub right fielder Chris Pieters couldn’t handle it. Rutledge was balked to second and scored the Giants’ only run on a wild pitch. Hancock struck out two of the remaining three hitters to end it.
As I’ve noted before, Hancock came to the Cubs for Matt Szczur last year. He throws hard, hitting 95+ consistently, and might be in the mix for the Iowa shuttle later this year.
Attendance watch: The crowd of 15,849 set a Sloan park and Cactus League record, breaking the previous record (15,523) set March 20, 2016. The season total is now 143,493 for 11 home dates, or 13,045 per date.
Earlier Tuesday, the Cubs lost 7-5 to the Padres at Peoria. Mike Montgomery started and was lifted with two out in the fourth, finishing with 54 pitches. He wound up allowing two runs on five hits, but significantly, he didn’t walk anyone. That’s always been his trouble, lack of control, and the work he’s doing with Jim Hickey appears to be paying off.
The Cubs had earlier scored four runs in the third, thanks in part to this two-run homer by Willson Contreras:
Playing pepper with the batter's eye. pic.twitter.com/ETyMX0M0Gi— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 13, 2018
That was good to see. Home runs by Cubs are, of course, always good to see, but particularly since Willson had been out for a few days with a minor illness.
The Padres won the game with five total runs off Dario Alvarez and Rob Zastryzny, both of whom were among roster cuts announced late Tuesday. Those two weren’t going to make the 25-man roster no matter what they did this spring, but they’ll have to throw better at Iowa to be on that famed “Iowa shuttle.”
The Cubs travel to the West Valley Wednesday afternoon to face the Royals. Alec Mills, who was also among Tuesday’s roster cuts, will start for the Cubs and Ian Kennedy will go for the Royals. Game time is 3:05 p.m. CT. This would normally be Jon Lester’s turn (the day after Chatwood’s), but he will stay back in Mesa and throw a simulated game and avoid the long bus ride to Surprise. No TV today; audio coverage is online via cubs.com.