MESA, Arizona — After allowing 12 runs on back-to-back days when the weather was pretty iffy in the Phoenix area, Cubs pitchers settled down and allowed just one, and Ryan Court hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to give the Cubs a 2-1 win over the Rangers.
If that sounds kind of dull, it’s because this game was... kind of dull.
Yu Darvish started this game and it came to a screeching halt. He walked the second batter he faced, allowed an infield single, then ran a three-ball count on Matt Davidson before striking him out. A single down the right-field line by Hunter Pence made it 1-0 Rangers.
But the Cubs got the run back in the bottom of the first. After Delino DeShields made a nice diving catch on a Ben Zobrist line drive (and I still can’t get used to that being the son of the guy who played for the Cubs, it seems like just yesterday), Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch and Anthony Rizzo walked.
One out later, Kyle Schwarber drove in Bryant:
And then Darvish settled down. He allowed just three more baserunners, a double just out of the reach of Bryant, a hit batter and a walk before being removed one batter into the fifth inning. Darvish struck out five and the only real complaint I had about his outing was that he was working very slowly. We aren’t (apparently) going to have a pitch clock, but it had expired numerous times on him before he delivered the ball. Darvish was better in his last outing, I thought, when he worked faster. His velocity was good again in this game, sitting mainly at 94-95.
And Cubs relievers Brian Duensing, Brandon Kintzler, Duane Underwood Jr., Rowan Wick and James Norwood combined for five shutout innings, with one hit and three walks allowed, and five strikeouts. Granted, much of this was against Rangers minor leaguers.
In the bottom of the eighth, Zack Short walked with one out. He stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, bringing up Court:
The sac fly put the Cubs ahead, and Norwood entered to throw the ninth. As he did last year, Norwood threw at an easy 97 miles per hour. He struck out the first batter he faced, then issued a walk to Rangers minor leaguer Yonny Hernandez. Hernandez took off for second. Francisco Arcia, who had replaced Willson Contreras in the eighth, made a high throw — but Nico Hoerner, again subbing in a major-league spring game, put a very impressive tag down for the out. Seems every time Hoerner’s in a game he makes something happen. Even before the game, Theo Epstein seemed impressed with Hoerner:
Theo impressed with maturity of Nico Hoerner, wouldn’t rule out or rule in possibility of him starting at Double-A Tennessee— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 14, 2019
That’s definitely impressive considering Hoerner’s professional experience consisted, prior to this spring, of 14 games at Low-A South Bend before he was injured, and 21 games in the Arizona Fall League. You can see that maturity and presence every time he takes the field with the big leaguers. It’s not impossible we could see him in the big leagues later this year.
One other thing to note: Wick threw a solid inning, striking out a pair and throwing at 95 most of the time. Like Norwood, he’s an Iowa Shuttle kind of guy this year and could help the big-league team.
Attendance watch: On a day when it was chilly in the shade but pleasant in the sun, 14,599 paid to see this game. That makes the Cubs’ total for 11 dates 144,295, or 13,118 per date. The coolish weather led to the unusual occurrence of a warmer temperature in Chicago than in Mesa:
Friday, the Cubs travel to Glendale to face the White Sox. Cole Hamels gets the start for the Cubs and Lucas Giolito will go for the Sox. At last, there’s a TV game. It will be on WGN, with the Sox announcers. There will be a Cubs radio broadcast on 670 The Score.