Adrian Sampson and the Cubs did not start this game well, trailing 6-2 after just three innings. But a few of the sub Cubs had nice days at the plate and that resulted in a 9-6 Cubs win over the Rangers, the team’s seventh straight victory.
Wins and losses, obviously, mean nothing in Spring Training for a variety of reasons. Still, it is nice to have a winning atmosphere around the team. It certainly cannot hurt.
The Cubs started the scoring early. With two out in the top of the first inning, Edwin Rios smashed this long home run [VIDEO].
Rios went 2-for-3. He’s an intriguing player. The man can hit, there’s no question about it, and he has done so at the MLB level: 20 home runs in 260 at-bats with the Dodgers from 2019-22. He really doesn’t have a position and has poor MLB defensive numbers. So what do you do with a guy like this? He’s on the 40-man roster and does have an option remaining, so he could be stashed at Triple-A Iowa in case of injury. In any case he has made an impression.
Also making an impression were Rangers hitters off former Ranger Adrian Sampson. Sampson, who has been susceptible to the long ball in his time with the Cubs, served up three of them in a two-plus inning outing. Could have been a lot of reasons for that. During his time with the Cubs in the regular season, 14 of the 18 homers he’s allowed have been with the bases empty. Which, if you’re going to serve up dingers, that’s the way to do it. In this game there were baserunners on for all three Texas homers, and it’s possible that if Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson were playing defense behind Sampson, that wouldn’t have happened.
So, take at least some of what Sampson gave up in this game with some of the proverbial salt grains. Here are some comments from Sampson on his outing [VIDEO].
The Cubs put another run on the board via an RBI single by Sergio Alcántara in the second inning, then got back in the game with a three-spot in the fourth, thanks in part to Alcántara, who hit this two-run double [VIDEO].
Like Rios, Alcántara can hit, a bit, as he showed in 2021 when he hit five home runs in 89 games with the Cubs. Again, defensively, he’s average at best. So it’s good that he’s a “break glass in case of emergency” guy for this ballclub, it shows how much the talent level has improved since the selloff of July 2021.
The Cubs tied the game in the sixth thanks to a ridiculously bad throw by a Rangers infielder on a ground ball by Pete Crow-Armstrong, allowing Jake Slaughter to score all the way from first.
They gave PCA a single on that, likely because it took a diving stop, but that throw — yikes.
PCA — that guy can play. He turns 21 later this month and will start this year at Double-A Tennessee, but he could play defense in the major leagues right now, he’s that good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs send him to the Arizona Fall League this coming October.
Then the Cubs added a second run in the inning on an RBI single by Luis Vazquez to complete the scoring.
Meanwhile, Cubs relievers did an excellent job after Sampson’s departure. Adbert Alzolay, Anthony Kay, Nick Burdi, Eric Stout and Cam Sanders combined for 6⅓ shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out seven. Of those relievers, only Alzolay is guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot, but some of the others could be useful during the 2023 season.
The Cubs return to Sloan Park Wednesday afternoon to face the Canadian WBC team in an exhibition game. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and 19-year-old Mitch Bratt, a Rangers prospect, will start for Canada. Game time is 2:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.