The Cubs offense apparently was itching to play more than the fans were excited to see baseball action again. The North Siders pounded the Angels for 11 runs, highlighted by a five run third inning, after starting pitcher Travis Wood put the Cubs in an early 0-2 hole. The Cubs did not look back after that, adding insult to injury with a four run eighth frame.
Luis Valbuena immediately made his case for the Opening Day third base job, touching off the Cubs scoring with a solo home run in the second inning, while Ian Stewart sits sidelined with an injury. Valbuena had originally been slated to start at second before Stewart strained his quad.
Logan Watkins registered a lead off triple in the third thanks to a defensive miscue. The up and coming infielder remained stranded there through two outs before new Cub Scott Hairston drove him in with a single. But what was more impressive than the 11 run total was the wave of clutch two out hits that put up the crooked 5 spot on the scoreboard. Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson, and Brent Lillibridge all got in on the two out action, with Jackson’s triple being the highlight of the set.
In fact, Jackson ended the day with two triples and two RBI, with his adjusted stance and swing already paying dividends. The mechanics have been compared to Anthony Rizzo’s stance, and production similar to what the Cubs first baseman provided last year out of Jackson will mean the outfielder will take a starting job sooner rather than later in 2013.
Overshadowed a bit by the offensive outburst was the solid pitching. As mentioned earlier, Wood gave up the two early runs, before settling down in his second and final inning of work. From there the Cubs pitching staff shut out the Angels, limiting the home team to just five hits after the first inning. Of the pitchers to appear in the game, the notable outing was Japanese pitcher and minor league signing Hisanori Takahashi, who got two innings of work while allowing two hits. Jaye Chapman and Rafael Dolis started their bids to return to the Major League Cubs bullpen on a positive note, with Chapman needing to fight his way back onto the 40 man roster.
People are going to discount the positive performance as a team today by the Cubs with the cliche “it’s early and just Spring Training”, but if anything its better to look good even in these Spring Training games than to be on the losing end of a 11-2 score line.