EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of Cubs spring training history articles I wrote when it appeared the lockout could cancel more spring games.
Now, of course, we have baseball, but by gum, I wrote these so you’re going to get to read them, even on game days. This is the fourth of five Spring Training “Today in Cubs history” articles. Hope you enjoy.
Spring games in the Cactus League don’t get called off or stopped very often, because generally the weather in the Phoenix area during late February and March is excellent — temperatures in the 70s to low 80s and unlimited sunshine.
Neither of those things happened in this 2009 game at Scottsdale Stadium between the Cubs and Giants. First, it was a night game, and back then with little or no televising of spring games, playing at night in the Valley of the Sun was silly. Temperatures often drop into the 50s at night there and with no humidity, that feels cold.
The photo at the top of this post was taken that 2009 evening. You can see a full house there, before the wind kicked up and sent most of those folks home early.
Here’s the recap I wrote (lightly edited) of a 5-3 spring loss to the Giants in a game called due to those high winds.
Now here’s a first — a Cactus League game ended early because of high winds.
The Cubs lost to the Giants 5-3, breaking a six-game spring winning streak, in a game where the game-time wind was clocked at 27 miles per hour (sustained) and it must have been gusting up to 45+ miles per hour. When I got into my car the temperature gauge there read 63 degrees, but it felt a lot colder than that. The crowd, a sellout of 11,999 (with many Cub fans very audible), had thinned out to maybe 2,000 by the fourth or fifth inning — the wind was picking up tremendous amounts of dust, visibly blowing the players’ uniforms around and making good baseball play nearly impossible.
Barry Zito struck out the side in the first inning and for a while, seemed to have that old 12-to-6 curveball that he made famous in Oakland working. But by the third inning, he had allowed a homer to Milton Bradley (a blast into the right-field party deck that would have been a monster shot, wind or no wind, any day). Later, four hits generated two more runs and gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Zito pitched well — some of those hits in the fifth probably wouldn’t have been so on most other days.
Meanwhile, Sean Marshall, who came into tonight’s start with only one walk in 19⅓ innings this spring, could not find the strike zone. He issued two walks in the first but got out with no damage. Then Marshall walked one more in each of the next three innings, helping lead to a pair of Giants runs. His overall line didn’t look too bad (two runs in four innings), but the five walks showed a lack of command. Whether that was due to the terrible weather conditions or something else remains to be seen. Marshall’s next outing will be against the Angels in Mesa next Tuesday, a day on which we presume it will be less windy.
Bradley had a nice day, with a single and walk in addition to the homer, and making a good catch in right field. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t say that catch would be anything other than routine, but nothing was routine on a day when dust and trash were blowing all over the place. Fred Lewis, the Giants’ left fielder, made a nice running grab of a Geovany Soto fly ball in the sixth that appeared to be going over his head.
Carlos Marmol gave up the runs that put the Giants ahead to stay in the fifth inning, hitting Lewis, who was the first batter he faced (this sort of thing is getting a little alarming with Marmol!) and then allowing two solid hits, leading to the two runs. Aaron Heilman wasn’t much better, and I confess I didn’t see it — the wind and cold was getting so bad by the middle of the sixth that I left, and arriving back home I was a little surprised to see that they had acknowledged the bad weather by calling the game in the middle of the seventh. That meant that Kevin Hart and Angel Guzman, who were to throw tonight, had their outings postponed until at least tomorrow.
When, we trust, the wind will have died down and the sun will return.
I don’t recall any other Cactus League game, in the more than 25 years I’ve been coming to spring training regularly, called for high winds. It happened 13 years ago today, Thursday, March 26, 2009.