The crowd at Wrigley Field was a bit sparse compared to the announced 27,000+ attendance, despite it being Starlin Castro bobblehead day. On the field, the Cubs were looking to win the series and start a winning streak.
Jordan already mentioned the Andrew Cashner injury earlier today. While it is disappointing to see the up and coming young arm go down, it was even more so considering he was having arguably the best start out of the five man rotation so far this past week. We knew the talent was there, but after the Spring he had, it was a bit of a surprise to see him put it all together right out of the gate in his first Major League start. He kept the ball down for the most part, inducing several ground ball outs. His only real mistake was the home run he served up to Ryan Roberts. We all wish him a quick recovery while we wait to hear more on the injury.
Jeff Samardzija was able to come in for the injured Cashner and close out the 6th inning, despite having the awkward situation of having to warm up on the mound instead of the bullpen. But he fell apart in the 7th, issuing two walks. Manager Mike Quade brought in Marcos Mateo to try to clean up the mess, but the young reliever walked the bases loaded and then gave up a hit that drove in a run for Arizona. The bullpen was already short staffed with Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol both not being available, and the Cashner injury did not help. Throw in the bad performances by the two relievers so far in this game, and the manager’s hands were really strapped. James Russell was brought in, and recorded a clutch strikeout of lefty slugger Russell Branyan, but the pesky Willie Bloomquist was able to tomahawk a single up the middle to tie the game.
The young lefty was able to post a scoreless 8th inning and gave way to Sean Marshall, who notched the save despite a nervous 9th inning in which Arizona cut the lead down to one. Let us just be thankful the bullpen was able to squeak by without the help of Wood and Marmol.
Kosuke Fukudome found himself in the lead off spot again, and he performed well, going 1 for 3 with two walks. Cashner added to his stellar debut as a starter by putting down a successful sacrifice bunt. Koyie Hill, who had one hit the entire Spring, drew a walk in the second, and sparked the first run for the Cubs after straying off second base a little too far on a Fukudome walk. The Arizona catcher fired down to second to try to pick off Hill scampering back to the bag, but the throw ended up in shallow center field, allowing Darwin Barney to score. Starlin Castro followed with a double that brought in Hill, but Fukudome was out on a close play at the plate, not quite being able to slide around the tag.
In fact Castro, Tyler Covlin, and Marlon Byrd were at the center of the action for the majority of the scoring. Byrd came in on Colvin’s home run in the 3rd inning, and all three players had a hand in retaking the lead in the 7th inning, highlighted by a RBI double by Byrd. The center fielder finished the day 3 for 4, showing signs of the hot hitter we saw in March but had not seen so far in April.
This offense still has to work on being consistent, but you have to like the way they battled to regain the lead to pick up the bullpen.
Colvin handled first base very well subbing for the injured Carlos Pena. He made a nice pick on a one hop shot to start a 3-6-1 double play that erased a lead off single, with pitcher Russell covering first base by kneeling down on the bag to record the back end of the play. The Cubs infield also just missed on a couple other double play opportunities, settling for force outs of the lead runners instead.