MESA, Arizona — The Cubs lost to the Brewers 4-3 on a gorgeous, sunny, warm Leap Year Day in Sloan Park.
So what? Wins and losses in spring training mean nothing.
I’m going to try to stick to the positive in this recap, and there’s quite a bit of it. Orlando Arcia, who has made a pest of himself to the Cubs for years, hit Yu Darvish’s very first pitch of 2020 onto the left-field berm for a home run. That isn’t good!
But the rest of Darvish’s outing was. He retired six of the next seven hitters, striking out three. He allowed one more hit, a double to Ben Gamel, and was hitting his spots with good velocity and command. Here are the three K’s [VIDEO].
Looked perfectly Darvish-like to me. It was a fine first outing for Yu. I didn’t count pitches, but here are some numbers:
I counted 14 pitches and 7 swings and misses for Darvish in that inning. Sitting 95, touched 98 twice. I'd say that's good for the last day of February.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 29, 2020
Here’s Darvish on his outing:
Darvish after first spring start. Threw six different pitches. Press box wag: “Holy crap.” pic.twitter.com/3xnICf9P7P— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 29, 2020
Adbert Alzolay relieved Darvish and looked pretty good in the third, retiring the first two hitters on ground balls. Then he lost Keston Hiura on a close ball four call and after a single, Logan Morrison smashed a three-run homer off Alzolay. That isn’t good, but he had a 1-2-3 fourth.
After that the Brewers had just one hit off five Cubs relievers from the fifth through the ninth, a one-out double by Hiura in the fifth. That was some solid relief work from Rowan Wick, Duane Underwood Jr., Ben Taylor, CD Pelham and Dakota Mekkes, who threw five total innings, allowed just the one hit, and struck out six.
The Cubs had just one hit through the first five innings. Then Robel Garcia led off the sixth with a triple that got by Brewers right fielder Luis Castro. Ian Happ singled him in to break the shutout, and after another single by Nico Hoerner, Kyle Schwarber closed the game to within 4-3 [VIDEO].
Schwarber’s double was well-struck to the opposite field, so that’s also good.
But that was all the Cubs could do. 12 of the last 13 Cubs went down, the only baserunner after Schwarber’s double was a two-out walk by David Bote in the sixth.
All of that made for a swiftly-played two-hour, 34-minute game. The loss? Who cares? There were some good hitting and pitching performances in this game that should give any Cubs fan hope for the future.
Ex-Cub note: Justin Grimm threw the fifth for Milwaukee and struck out Bote and Hernan Perez. He looked pretty good, and I suppose has a shot at making their Opening Day roster. Grimm last pitched in the major leagues for the Royals and Mariners in 2018 and spent 2019 pitching in Triple-A in the Dodgers and Reds organizations, and not well. But in this one, he looked like he did in his good years with the Cubs.
Attendance watch: The game sold out, no surprise given the beautiful weather and with a large and fairly loud contingent of Brewers fans in Sloan Park. Saturday’s game drew 15,099, which makes the total for four dates this spring 46,069, or 11,517 per date. It was noted by PA announcer Tim Sheridan that this was the 100th game in the history of Sloan Park and the total attendance for those 100 dates exceeds 1.4 million.
Sunday, the Cubs will host the Seattle Mariners at 2:05 p.m. CT. Jon Lester will get his second spring start. For Seattle, it’ll be almost-Cub Kendall Graveman. TV is on the Marquee Network. There will be Chicago-area radio coverage on 670 The Score and in the Seattle area on 710 ESPN.