Kyle Schwarber grand slam not enough as Cubs fall to Giants


8. 40. 6. 9. Final

Chicago Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber celebrated his 22nd birthday in a big way Thursday, crushing a grand slam in his first at-bat in a Cubs’ uniform, but it was not enough as the club fell to the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, 8-6.

The blast came in the top of the second inning against San Francisco starter Ryan Vogelsong, opening a day full of scoring. The homer followed up walks to Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant, which were split by a Welington Castillo single to left field. The fourth overall pick in last year’s June draft went 1-for-3 on the afternoon, as a whole.

However, it was a five-run outburst in the eighth inning that proved to be the difference in the contest – as the Giants’ offense erupted against Cubs’ pitching. Hunter Cervenka took the ball for Chicago to open the frame, issuing a leadoff walk before retiring Mac Williamson on a ground ball.

With Travis Ishikawa on second base and one out in the frame, Cervenka threw one wide, allowing the Giants’ first baseman to advance to third. After another walk, the left-hander made an errant pickoff attempt, allowing the Giants to score a run while moving Mitch Delfino into scoring position.

Jarrett Parker and Guillermo Quiroz then began a series of four consecutive base knocks for the Giants, who quickly erased the Cubs’ lead, jumping ahead 8-6 – ending Cervenka’s outing. The Chicago offense failed to come through in the top of the ninth, ending what began as a promising contest on a disappointing note.

The Chicago offense also got a contribution from utilityman Arismendy Alcantara in the fifth, when he delivered a run-scoring sacrifice fly. Outfielder Billy McKinney, who came to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija trade last summer along with Addison Russell, also hit his first home run of the spring with a solo blast in the eighth, extending the club’s lead to 6-3.

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Jacob Turner, the former highly-touted Miami Marlins prospect, got the ball for the Cubs in this tilt, tossing two scoreless frames – walking two and allowing one base hit. Pierce Johnson showcased some devastating stuff in his two innings of work – but the most notable part of the afternoon pitching-wise came later on with Corey Black on the hill.

The Chicago prospect hit San Francisco right fielder in the left arm with a pitch, breaking his ulna and costing him the next six-to-eight weeks; prompting a social media firestorm amongst Giants fans railing against Black.

For a full box score from Thursday’s contest, click here.

What Stood Out:

The work turned in by Johnson was incredible impressive. His fastball had a lot of live action on it, and his breaking pitches complimented his heater well. In a system dominated by position player prospects, it was nice to see some of the talent the Cubs have waiting in the wings in terms of pitching.

Last season, the right-hander – who enters this season as the 83rd-ranked prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus – posted a 2.55 ERA in 18 outings (17 starts) with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. In three seasons in the Cubs’ system, Johnson carries a 2.68 earned run average to go along with a 1.250 WHIP and a 9.2 SO/9 mark.

What’s Next:

The Cubs (0-1-1) will host the Cincinnati Reds (1-2) at Sloan Park in Mesa on Friday afternoon, with first pitch slated for 2:05 p.m. CT.

The headline for the afternoon tilt is the Cubs’ debut for left-handed ace Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who signed a six-year, $155 million deal earlier this offseason. His former battery mate David Ross, who also came to Chicago this winter, will catch.

He will be opposed by Cincinnati right-hander Tony Cingrani (0-0, 0.00 ERA)