MESA, Arizona — The Cubs put up six runs in the first inning off Dodgers rookie Wilmer Font and defeated L.A. 9-5, but I’m more interested in telling you about my first impressions of Yu Darvish in a Cubs uniform.
First, Darvish has a completely different pre-game routine than any other Cubs starter. He was on the field at 12:15 — at least 15 minutes earlier than the other starters I’ve watched — running and stretching. He paused briefly to greet his former catcher with the Dodgers, Austin Barnes, as Barnes entered Sloan Park, then resumed his workout routine. He was very methodical in his warmups, and was popping them into Willson Contreras’ glove with what seemed to be excellent velocity. If you didn’t see my Facebook Live of Darvish’s bullpen session, you can watch it here.
Then Darvish came into the game and completely lost his command. He walked leadoff hitter Chris Taylor, who stole second. After Yu struck out Corey Seager, he uncorked two wild pitches, scoring Taylor, then walked Justin Turner. This was not a good beginning.
However, he recovered to strike out Matt Kemp (who looks awful at the plate and has lost a ton of speed in the outfield, incidentally) and Yasiel Puig. So none of the first five Dodgers put the ball in play against him.
The second inning was better, with a ground out, a fly to right and a called strikeout. All in all, despite the wildness in the first inning, I thought it was a good outing for his first Cubs appearance. Here are a couple of Darvish’s K’s:
Just a taste. pic.twitter.com/pUTF3FAMXK— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 7, 2018
By the time Darvish threw that second inning, he had a 6-1 lead thanks to an explosion of Cubs offense off of Font, the big blows a two-run double by Javier Baez and a two-run homer by Albert Almora Jr.
Almora had to leave the game in the fourth inning after doing a faceplant on the warning track attempting to make a catch on a double by Logan Forsythe. BCB’s Danny Rockett was fortuitously placed in the stands and got a photo of what happened to AA:
Almora. Hits homer. Makes circus catch. Gets bloody nose. #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/GDHj44yecm— Danny Rockett (@SonRanto) March 6, 2018
I’m sure he’ll be fine — he was probably going to leave the game after that inning anyway.
Brandon Morrow also made his Cubs debut in this one, and allowed a couple of hard hits and a run, and I suspect, as is the case for many pitchers early in the spring, he was throwing nothing but fastballs. We’ll likely see him again later in the week.
Steve Cishek was touched up for a two-run homer by Dodgers prospect Edwin Rios in his one inning of work. Carl Edwards Jr. threw a scoreless frame with a pair of strikeouts, and the final Dodgers run was an inside-the-park homer in the ninth off Alec Mills. The fly ball by Matt Beaty bounced crazily off the right-field wall away from Jacob Hannemann and Beaty, who played in Double-A for the Dodgers last year, flew around the bases.
Hannemann drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the fifth, and Peter Bourjos, who replaced Ben Zobrist in the fourth inning, had two RBI. Zobrist was 0-for-3 in his first spring game and had no fielding chances in left field, so there’s little to judge him on.
One interesting play happened in the second inning. Kris Bryant led off with a walk, and the Dodgers defense shifted on Anthony Rizzo. You could tell that Rizzo was trying to go to the left side; instead, his ground ball went to first base with Bryant running. But with the infield shifted, no one was covering third, so Bryant advanced two bases on an infield out. Unfortunately, he was stranded.
Attendance watch: 14,479 paid to see this one, a few hundred short of a sellout. That makes the total attendance for seven dates this spring 84,086, or 12,012 per date.
Wednesday, the Cubs will play their first night game of the spring, traveling to Goodyear to face the Indians. Jose Quintana will go for the Cubs and Trevor Bauer for the Tribe. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT. There will be a webcast on cubs.com, and TV via WGN-TV. The WGN broadcast is being picked up nationally on MLB Network. Enjoy!