Rafael Ortega, who’s probably not going to make the Opening Day roster, continued his hot hitting with a two-hit game Wednesday afternoon. P.J. Higgins added a solo homer, but it wasn’t enough and the Cubs came up short against the Giants 7-6 at Scottsdale Stadium.
Alec Mills gave up a run in the first inning after retiring the first two hitters, but the Cubs got the run back in the top of the second.
Anthony Rizzo walked and advanced to second on a groundout, after which he scored on a single by Ortega:
Rafael Ortega stays hot! pic.twitter.com/guDsfAWHPr— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 10, 2021
One out later, Taylor Gushue walked and Higgins was hit by a pitch, but the inning was then called because Nick Tropeano had thrown 29 pitches.
Mills was removed with one out in the third, having allowed three hits and a run. It seemed like a successful outing for him, but the jury’s still out on whether he’ll be the fifth starter or whether he’ll be in a hybrid starter/long relief role. Here’s one of the seven outs Mills recorded:
For his final out of the afternoon, Alec Mills got La Stella to chop into a 3-1 groundout. The Cubs righty logged 37 pitches (23 strikes) in 2.1 IP. One run on three hits with one walk and one strikeout. Fives outs via grounders. pic.twitter.com/LDpE4jwYYm— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 10, 2021
In the fourth, Rizzo reached base again with a single, but was thrown out at the plate on a double by Ortega, who took third on the play and scored on a single by Matt Duffy to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
Brandon Workman, likely to be the Cubs’ primary setup man, issued two walks in his inning of work, but got out of it without a run thanks in part to a double play.
Higgins homered off Wandy Peralta in the top of the fifth to make it 3-1:
But the Giants took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth on a single, a throwing error, another base hit and a two-run homer by Wilmer Flores off Andrew Chafin, not a good day for Chafin.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Cubs starting players departed en masse, but Dan Winkler, who is expected to be in the Opening Day bullpen, served up a two-run homer to Jason Krizan to make it 6-3 Giants. A couple of walks and a single by Andy Weber in the seventh made it 6-4.
Manuel Rodriguez, a 24-year-old righthander who throws up to 99 miles per hour, threw a scoreless inning (the seventh) in his first outing of the spring. He faced two former Cubs, Arismendy Alcantara (walk) and Jason Vosler (strikeout), and eventually walked the bases loaded before David Ross ended the inning on a pitch count. Rodriguez has talent — he averaged 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 35 appearances at High-A in 2019 — but is clearly a work in progress.
The bottom of the eighth, thrown by Robert Stock, was also halted on a pitch count after Stock walked in a run.
The Cubs put a pair of runs across in the ninth inning on a bases-loaded double by Alfonso Rivas that bounced into the stands. Had it not done that, it would have cleared the bases and tied the game, but the runner on first had to hold at third. The last out of the game was made on a spectacular catch on a line drive by Brennen Davis that would have given the Cubs the lead.
The overall good news, though, is that Cubs starting pitchers are having an outstanding spring to date:
Updated collective line from Cubs' starting pitchers this spring: 21.1 IP, 13 H, 3 R/ER, 7 BB, 16 K, 0 HR.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 10, 2021
Keep up the good work, guys.
Thursday, the Cubs continue their two-day excursion to Scottsdale ballparks as they take on the Rockies at Salt River Fields. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and former Giant Dereck Rodriguez will go for the Rockies. Game time is 2:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain with the Rockies announcers.