For the second straight series the Cubs are playing a team they should be able to beat if they have any thoughts of being contenders this season. With the Arizona Diamondbacks visiting the Friendly Confines for the next three days, the Cubs hope to play rude hosts, starting with today. On a side note, a quick welcome back to Arizona bench coach Alan Trammel, who as we know, manned the same job for our Cubs over the last few seasons, and clubhouse favorite Henry Blanco (or Hank White as Bob Brenly affectionately calls him).
Randy Wells was a bit wild in his first start of the regular season, as evidenced by his four walks issued, but he was able to hold the Diamondbacks to one run to tally a quality start. After the media quizzed Mike Quade over a couple moves he did not make (ie pinch hitting Reed Johnson with Kosuke Fukudome or Blake DeWitt in the 9th yesterday), the Cubs manager played the match up chess game with Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, bringing in Sean Marshall, Marcos Mateo, and John Grabow in the 7th inning alone to record one out each. In turn each recorded their first holds of the 2011 season.
Set up man Kerry Wood was able to walk the tight rope 8th inning to protect the one run lead at the time. Carlos Marmol stood up to the media like a man after the blown save on Sunday, and he invited the same reporters to return and join him after he strikes out the side tomorrow [Monday]. It was good to hear that confidence and bounce back attitude from the closer. Although he walked the first batter he faced again, and failed to back his proclamation of a clean inning full of strikeouts, Marmol did register the next three outs to claim his second save of the young season.
Marmol has appeared in three games in three days now, so hopefully the Cubs offense can put together a blow out win to give the bullpen a breather tomorrow.
Alfonso Soriano was a key part of the offense for the second straight day. His solo home run in the 3rd inning tied the game up and was the first hit the Cubs had in the game. After taking the lead on a sacrifice fly in the 4th thanks to Carlos Pena, the Cubs padded the lead in the 8th inning for Marmol to work with. Aramis Ramirez and Geo Soto hit back to back doubles to make it 3-1 Cubs, and then Soriano was in the middle of the action again, driving Soto in on a single.
Even with Soriano claiming the only two home runs for the Cubs as a team so far, it is good to see the offense finding ways to score runs without the long ball. As we are all familiar with by now, it is tough to win with the long ball at Wrigley in April, with the wind usually blowing in.
Starlin Castro was charged with his first error of the season, but it was a reflection of some bad throwing decisions from him over the last three games. The error helped the Diamondbacks to load the bases and threaten, but veteran Wood was able to pick up the young shortstop with a clutch strikeout and pop fly to escape the jam.
Carlos Pena showed some nice range at first, making a play that almost took him past second baseman Jeff Baker in the infield. He slipped a little bit on his throw to Marshall covering first base, causing the timing of the play to be awkward, but the tall lefty pitcher was able to find the bag with his toe a split second before the runner to record the out.
Soto threw two runners out against an aggressive Arizona side. He threw out one runner after a ball in the dirt did not get too far from him, and he also caught one of the three stolen base attempts. Teams ran on Soto due to his less than 100% arm in 2010, but Soto is showing flashes that other ball clubs should start running with caution.