MESA, Arizona — Saturday night’s 3-0 Cubs win over the Rockies was the type of game we hope we see much more of throughout the 2018 season.
Solid pitching? Check. Good defense, especially in the infield? Check. Home runs leaving the yard? Check.
Mike Montgomery and four relievers allowed the Rockies just three singles and a pair of walks. Just four Rockies baserunners got past first base, one of those on defensive indifference in the ninth inning.
Montgomery struggled with his control a bit in the early innings with the two walks, but also got seven ground-ball outs among his 12 batters retired, a solid outing. And between him, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Ryan, they retired 18 straight Rockies from the third through the ninth inning, when Ryan allowed a one-out single.
After Ben Zobrist reached on a rare error by Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning, Anthony Rizzo sent a baseball deep into the Mesa night:
Man on 3rd, one out.— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 25, 2018
OK, Rizz. Just put it in play. pic.twitter.com/QrVzfD51o5
That would turn out to be all the Cubs would need. It was Rizzo’s third home run of the spring. Jason Vosler, who’s probably going to have to go to another organization to get a major-league chance, homered in the eighth to complete the scoring. Vosler, who’s 24, is a third baseman, obviously blocked with the Cubs. He had a pretty good year at Double-A in 2017 and also played in the Arizona Fall League last year. He’ll likely be the third baseman at Iowa this year.
If this seems like a short summary, well, that’s pretty much intentional. Not much else happened in this quick game, which ended in a snappy two hours, 30 minutes.
Strop looked sharp and solid and was hitting 95 and I’d say he appears ready to start the season; there’s been some question about whether he might start the year on the disabled list, but I don’t see any reason for that. I’d guess Strop gets one more spring appearance, in one of the games vs. the Red Sox, and then should be ready to go for the regular season.
This article, though, says the decision won’t be made until Monday or Tuesday, and that Eddie Butler is still in the mix.
Ryan, who’s had a good spring (1.80 ERA, 1.100 WHIP in 10 innings), probably isn’t going to get the last spot in the pen, but is a strong candidate for the Iowa shuttle this summer, especially because he’s lefthanded. Ryan had a 3.87 ERA and 1.336 WHIP in 86 appearances (seven starts) for the Tigers over the last four seasons.
In addition to Ryan, Justin Hancock and Anthony Bass are still in contention for a bullpen spot.
Attendance watch: 15,844, the second-largest crowd in Sloan Park (and Cactus League) history, paid to see this game. (The record, 15,849, was set in another night game, March 13 vs. the Giants.) The final spring total attendance at home for the Cubs was 222,023, or 13,876 per date. Also:
In 5 seasons at Sloan Park, #Cubs have drawn 1,111,349 fans (that's more than 1 million)— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 25, 2018
That’s an average of 222,270 per season. There have been 76 total dates over the five seasons, so that’s 14,623 per date. (The international exhibitions last year vs. Italy and Japan don’t count in this total or average.)
There was another game Saturday night; a split squad of Cubs traveled to Peoria and lost to the Mariners 7-3. The only truly notable thing about that game was this:
.@ihapp_1 took the first pitch of the game and, well, you can guess what he did with it. pic.twitter.com/Jm5GMVz0fm— MLB (@MLB) March 25, 2018
Yes, that’s another Ian Happ home run — his seventh of the spring, tying him for the major-league spring training lead with Yonder Alonso of the Indians and Frank Schwindel of the Royals — and also another leadoff homer, his fifth this spring. That one was on the first pitch of the game, off Felix Hernandez.
You might not see Happ in the leadoff spot every single day... but at this point I’m guessing it’ll be most days. Happ is hitting .333/.418/.875 (16-for-48) this spring.
One more Cactus League game before the Cubs head to Florida for a pair of practice games vs. the Red Sox. Sunday afternoon, the Cubs travel to Surprise to face the Royals. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs, though I wouldn’t expect him to throw more than about 60 pitches, maybe 3-4 innings. Ian Kennedy starts for the Royals. Radio coverage today is on 670 The Score, and the game will be televised on WGN-TV. Game time is an hour earlier than recent days, 2:05 p.m. CT. The game preview will post at 12 noon CT.