On Saturday the Cubs climbed their way back to a .500 record in Cactus League play. Yes, it is only Spring Training, but considering they went a week without a win earlier in the month and that an even record does not figure to show itself much after April, if at all, getting to 15-15 is still nice to see.
When the Cubs fell behind 5-1 in the sixth, it was not looking like the home team would get the victory to even their Cactus wins and losses. Edwin Jackson allowed five earned runs in five plus innings of work, with the runs coming off of eight hits. However the Cubs starter followed the recent trend of Cubs pitchers helping themselves out. Darwin Barney hit a double with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and was driven home by a Jackson single. Two out hitting and run production can be such a moral booster and that is exactly what seemed to wake up a Cubs offense that had otherwise been shut down by Angels pitcher Joe Blanton.
March 17, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Alberto Gonzalez (6) singles in the third inning during a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Schierholtz doubled in Scott Hairston to draw the Cubs within two in the sixth, but the seventh inning is when the Cubs put up a crooked number on the board. Brent Lillibridge tripled to lead off the frame and David DeJesus would drive him in two batters later with a single up the middle. Alberto Gonzalez would then double in two runs before committing the sin of getting the first out at third trying to stretch his hit to a triple. Hairston would launch a homer down the left field line to put the Cubs ahead.
Hisanori Takahashi would toss two scoreless innings to keep the Cubs close, but Carlos Marmol reverted to his common Wild Thing impression. He would walk the first batter he faced and then cranked up the pressure by hitting the next batter, Brendan Harris. Just when a couple fielders choice plays, including an assist by Anthony Rizzo at home, created hope of Marmol tip toeing his way out of danger, Steve Clevenger allowed a passed ball that would bring home the tying run.
Clevenger would attempt to make amends for his mistake by leading off the bottom of the eighth with a double. Shawon Dunston Jr. would pinch run for the Cubs third string catcher and made his way to third on a ground out. Unfortunately that out was the second of the inning, but the Angels would gift the generous run the Cubs gave away in the top of the inning right back. A wild pitch by Ernesto Frieri allowed Dunston to score and that ended up being the winning run.
With Opening Day about a week away, it is good to see the Cubs at least playing decent ball these past few days.