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Indians 5, Cubs 1: Ben Zobrist homers in loss

There wasn’t much to be excited about in this game.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Arizona — Truth be told, Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 Cubs loss to the Indians at Sloan Park was a pretty dull affair. The 15,826 at the sold-out ballpark didn’t seem to care much, many of them dressed in St. Patrick’s Day green, and definitely celebrating the holiday.

And as I’m writing this, the other halves of both teams are going at it in Las Vegas (recap of that game to come at 8 a.m. CT Sunday), so I’ll keep this one mercifully short.

Ben Zobrist’s home run leading off the second inning gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Thanks to another hit and an error by Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, the Cubs had two men on with one out later in that inning, but failed to score.

You have now read pretty much all the Cubs highlights of this game. The Cubs did have runners on second and third with one out in the third, but Zobrist and Tommy La Stella struck out to end that threat. After that the Cubs had just two hits and three total baserunners, and of interest in that was a triple by Kyle Schwarber with two out in the fifth, which he ended with a nice pop-up slide. Schwarber motored around the bases pretty good on that hit into the right-field corner, and in general I think he’s been moving around the bases and in the field much better than last year, thanks to his offseason workouts and weight loss. You’d almost never know he had a serious knee injury two years ago.

Javier Baez returned to the lineup and went 1-for-3 and made a slick play on a ground ball by Erik Gonzalez in the third inning. I wish I could show you that play, but there don’t seem to be any video highlights of this game. Javy was satisfied with his play, though:

Eddie Butler threw three solid innings and then ran into trouble in the fourth, on walks, which has been his biggest problem frequently in his career. Eventually he walked the bases loaded with one out, although there were also a couple of base advances on errors (by Butler and catcher Taylor Davis) and a stolen base by Jose Ramirez, during which he got tangled up with La Stella at third and left the game with a minor injury:

Hope everything’s OK with Ramirez, who is a fine player.

Butler, who was clearly on a pitch count where they hoped he’d finish the fourth, left the game with the bases loaded. In came Jordan Minch, a 24-year-old lefthander who spent last year at Advanced-A Myrtle Beach (and didn’t throw well: 6.63 ERA, 1.582 WHIP). Minch promptly served up a grand slam to Indians catcher Roberto Perez.

That was pretty much that; Steve Cishek and Justin Wilson both threw 1-2-3 innings and looked good, so that’s a positive thing. Luke Farrell, who will likely be in the rotation at Iowa this year, threw three innings, allowed one run and struck out six, all of whom were Indians minor leaguers.

Attendance watch: As noted, 15,826 paid to attend this game. That means the three largest crowds in Sloan Park (and Cactus League) history have all been this week (15,849 Tuesday, 15,829 Thursday and this one). The total paid attendance for 13 home dates is 175,148, or 13,475 per date.

Sunday, the Cubs are again a split squad. This time, the games are both at the same time, 3:05 p.m. CT. At Sloan Park, the Cubs will face the Royals, with Tyler Chatwood going against Danny Duffy. At Las Vegas, Rob Zastryzny will start against Stephen Fife.

Media coverage as follows Sunday:

Sloan Park game: no audio, TV via Fox Sports Kansas City (viewable online on
Las Vegas game: 670 The Score, NBC Sports Chicago