MESA, Arizona — The first thing I’m going to tell you about regarding the Cubs’ 5-5 tie with the Giants Thursday afternoon at Sloan Park was nearly the last thing that happened.
Ty Blach, who has been an off-and-on Giants starter much of the last two seasons, was on in relief in the ninth inning. Looks like the Giants are trying to turn him into a reliever, as he has made no starts this spring. He was going to be facing Cubs minor leaguers. The first two were easy groundouts.
Up stepped Kevonte Mitchell. Mitchell was the Cubs’ 13th round pick in 2014 out of high school in Missouri. His numbers have been middling through five years in the system and he hasn’t played above A ball. He’s 23 and his chances of a big league career are pretty small.
Mitchell crushed a Blach pitch and sent it probably 440 feet to dead center field, a monstrous home run that tied the game. Blach induced another groundout after that and the game ended, but I wanted to give Mitchell some props. If he never makes the big leagues, he can say that he hit this home run off a big-league pitcher.
The rest of the game was some back-and-forth between Kyle Hendricks and Jeff Samardzija, who were never Cubs teammates, oddly enough, though their combined Cubs tenures go back to 2008. Samardzija was traded to the Athletics five days before Hendricks made his major-league debut; essentially, Kyle took Shark’s place in the Cubs rotation.
Hendricks served up a wind-blown home run to Brandon Belt with a runner on in te first inning, and then appeared to tire in the sixth, when three more hits produced another Giants run. In between, Hendricks looked pretty good, striking out three and starting a slick double play in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Albert Almora Jr. cut that 2-0 first-inning Giants lead in half in the bottom of the inning:
The Cubs had some chances to score in the second and third innings but it took another longball, this one by Victor Caratini, to tie the score at 2:
Brian Duensing was touched up for a pair of runs in the seventh after he allowed a single and a walk. The runs came in, though, off hits off Brandon Kintzler. So... neither one was impressive in this game. It’s entirely possible that one or both of those guys winds up cut next week.
I did want to show you this, Caratini throwing out Yangervis Solarte trying to steal in the sixth inning, with a nice tag applied by Ian Happ:
Allen Webster threw a nice 1-2-3 eighth inning with a strikeout, and Brad Brach also retired the side in order in the ninth. Both of those pitchers have a shot at the Opening Day bullpen, but again, those innings were against Giants minor leaguers.
One of those minor leaguers was Jacob Heyward, Jason’s younger brother, who was the Giants’ 18th round pick in 2016 out of the University of Miami. There is a strong physical resemblance between the two, except that Jacob is righthanded. The younger Heyward entered as a pinch-runner, scored a run, then Webster struck him out. Jacob Heyward is 23 and likely will play Double-A in the Giants system this year.
The Cubs plated a pair of runs in the seventh on a throwing error by Giants reliever Patrick Bergen; then there was Mitchell’s home run, and for the second day in a row, Cubs fans departed Sloan Park without a win or loss to the team’s credit.
Attendance watch: 15,409, another sellout on a coolish 69-degree afternoon, brought the season total at Sloan to 205,369, or 13,691 per date, with three dates remaining. All three are expected to be sellouts, which means the season total will be somewhere around 250,000. That will shatter the all-time Cubs/Cactus League/spring training total set in 2017 of 226,933. That mark was set in a season of 15 games, with the average that year of 15,129 setting a record. That average mark won’t be broken, as this year’s total of 18 home dates at Sloan will likely result in an average per date of about 13,900.
The Cubs have their final split squad date of 2019 Friday. The afternoon affair at Sloan Park will feature Jose Quintana starting for the Cubs and Jordan Romano for the Rangers. Game time at Sloan is 3:05 p.m. CT and there will be TV coverage via WGN and the usual audio webcast on cubs.com. The night game will be against the Indians at Goodyear at 8:05 p.m. CT. Duane Underwood Jr. will go for the Cubs in that game against Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. That game will be on 670 The Score and TV coverage will be via the Indians TV network Sports Time Ohio.