One thing the Cubs are going to need in order to win in 2021 is great defense behind a pitching staff that has a lot of pitch-to-contact guys.
They showed that off in Monday’s Cactus League opener, turning three double plays in a 1-0 win over the Padres at Peoria, Arizona, a combined six-hit, seven-inning shutout.
Kyle Hendricks issued a leadoff walk in the first inning, but the next hitter, Eric Hosmer, hit into a well-executed double play. While there was no TV coverage of this game, intrepid Sun-Times beat writer Russell Dorsey had his phone operational from the press box at Peoria Stadium and so we do indeed have some video of the double play:
Both starters, Hendricks and Chris Paddack, had good outings that went two innings. While Hendricks isn’t a strikeout pitcher by velocity, he does K a fair number of people. Here he strikes out his former teammate, Victor Caratini leading off the second inning:
Not quite sure why Russ tweeted that in Spanish, but I think you can figure out what’s going on.
Shelby Miller, trying to come back from multiple injuries, had a bit of a rough inning (two hits, a walk) but got bailed out by another of the Cubs’ three double plays.
The Cubs were held hitless until the fourth, when Javier Baez poked a one-out single to center. In the fifth, David Bote walked and Ildemaro Vargas singled him to second. You wouldn’t normally sacrifice in a situation like that during the season, but spring training is a perfect time to do this, and Ian Miller executed the sac bunt perfect, putting the runners on second and third with one out. P.J. Higgins grounded to second and Bote scored to give the Cubs the 1-0 lead.
Cubs play some small ball to get on the board in the 5th inning:— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) March 1, 2021
-Bote leadoff BB
-I. Miller sac bunt
-Higgins RBI groundout pic.twitter.com/4sU9Uwky71
Sure, you’d like more offense, as those hits were the only two on the afternoon for the Cubs, but they made it work.
After the fifth inning, the Cubs emptied their bench so guys who will likely spend much of the year at Triple-A Iowa finished out the contest.
Rex Brothers and Joe Biagini threw 1-2-3 innings. Tyson Miller gave up a couple of hits in the sixth, but worked his way out of the jam.
The audio broadcast from the Padres announcer was... uneven. Play-by-play announcer Jesse Agler referred to Kyle Hendricks as “Jason” Hendricks in the lineup introductions, called the Cubs third baseman David “Boat” and when Trevor Megill entered to finish up in the seventh, insisted that Megill had “made his MLB debut” with the Padres in 2018. While the Cubs did get Megill as a Rule 5 pick a year ago from the Padres, he has never pitched in a major-league game.
Spring training for everyone, I guess. Megill issued a four-pitch walk leading off the last of the seventh, but recovered to post the save, including a pair of strikeouts.
Attendance at Peoria Stadium was 1,636 and the game time was a snappy one hour, 54 minutes.
Tuesday will be the Sloan Park opener for the 2021 spring season. The Cubs will face the Royals with Adbert Alzolay starting. (Wish Adbert a Happy Birthday, as he turned 26 Monday.) Jakob Junis will start for the Royals. Game time is 2:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.