A's Bats Hot in Cubs Cactus League Opener
The Oakland A's outscored the Cubs 15-3 over the final eight innings to overcome a 4-0 1st inning deficit, pounding out 18 hits while thrashing the Cubs 15-7 in what was the Cubs 2011 Cactus League opener, played in 50 degree temperatures after an all-night rain before a disappointing crowd of only 6,892 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ, this afternoon.
The Cubs got off to a quick 4-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st against A's starter Travis Cahill. Lead-off man Kosuke Fukudome drew a walk, and advanced to 3rd base as Starlin Castro roped a single to RF. Castro stole 2nd base (uncontested), and Fukudome scored and Castro advanced to 3rd base on a Marlon Byrd line-drive RBI single to CF. Aramis Ramirez followed with an RBI single, and after Carlos Pena grounded into a 4-6 FC, Alfonso Soriano ripped an RBI double down the LF line, scoring Byrd and sending Ramirez to 3rd. Geovany Soto grounded an RBI single to LF to plate Ramirez, before Blake DeWitt grounded into a rally-killing inning-ending 6-3 DP.
Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano was mowing down the A's over the first two innings on just 25 pitches (16 strikes), striking out Coco Crisp and Daric Barton to open the game (both swinging), and allowing just a lead-off walk in the top of the 2nd to Kurt Suzuki, who was immediately erased on an Andy LaRoche 4-6-3 ground ball DP. Zambrano's sinker was working well, and he dominated the A's hitters over his two innings of work, getting routine ground balls when he wasn't scoring a strikeout.
New Cub Matt Garza came into the game to start the 3rd, and proceeded to load the bases on two singles and a walk. Coco Crisp (batting left-handed) then unloaded a towering grand slam HR over the pavillion well beyond the RF fence, tying the game at 4-4 before Garza could retire a hitter. Garza did settle down a bit after that, allowing one more run on two hits while striking out one. For the day, Garza threw 36 pitches (24 strikes) with a 1/4 GO/FO in 2.0 IP. Garza will probably struggle some in the Cactus League, because he is a "fly-ball pitcher," and fly ball pitchers generally give up more runs in Arizona Spring Training games than they will during the regular season.
Although he did not walk anyone, Jeff Samardzija was behind on most of the hitters he faced in his one inning of work, allowing a run on two hits (a one-out double by Daric Barton followed by a Josh Willingham RBI single). Although he did allow a run on two hits, The Shark did get an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP where he shattered Andy LaRoche's bat.
Carlos Marmol struggled with his command in the 6th, but he did not allow a run in his one inning. Justin Berg, however, got hammered in the 7th as the A's broke the game open, allowing seven runs (all earned) on six hits and a walk, while retiring just one hitter. Berg is one of about ten pitchers battling for (likely) one open spot in the bullpen, and he did nothing to help himself with today's miserable performance.
John Grabow (who is a lock to make the Cubs Opening Day roster) had a poor outing, allowing a single, a double, and a triple (and two runs) in the top of the 8th.
The Cubs did mount minor rallies in the bottom of the 7th and in the bottom of the 8th, scoring one run in the 7th on a Max Ramirez bases-loaded SF to RF following Fernando Perez and Bryan Lahair singles and a Brett Jackson walk, and two more in the 8th on a Jeff Baker lead-off infield hit, a Darwin Barney double off the left-centerfield fence, and a Josh Vitters line-drive RBI single.
Alfonso Soriano had a nice day at the plate, collecting three hits (the 1st inning RBI double followed by singles in his next two ABs), and Starlin Castro had two singles (both line drives, both to the opposite-field), as did Marlon Byrd.
On defense, Blake DeWitt was charged with a missed-catch fielding error that really should have been scored a FC (the runner waa already safe at 2nd base when the throw arrived), Tyler Colvin bobbled two line drives to RF in the top of the 7th that resulted in runners scoring from 3rd base after they had held up, and CF Fernando Perez misplayed a routine fly ball to left-center into an extra-base hit.
The Cubs play the Brewers tomorrow at HoHoKam Park.