The Cubs played this one more or less straight, going with pitchers who’ll make the team, and a relatively regular group of positional players. Thus, they beat the Brewers 4-0 … right? Er, well, about that 9th inning. We’ll talk about it in a moment. Cubs ultimately lost 5-4 (Box Score).
- Jon Lester had an uneventful start in a good way. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk along the way. He’ll probably say it was not perfect, as his command and stuff didn’t look like him at his best (he struck out just two), but it was still a perfectly fine outing, even against an extremely thin opposing lineup. As has been the case for weeks with starters like Lester: what matters is that he feels good and normal. By all accounts, he does. He’ll get one final shortened tune-up start before the season opens, and then it’s off to the races. I like Lester to have yet another great year with the Cubs.
- You’ll be happy to hear that the Cubs went Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm after Lester, and all three of the Cubs’ fireballing late-inning relievers looked very good in their inning of work.
- Clayton Richard was called upon to close things out in the 9th, and, although the final line – 5 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K – looks ugly and it was a long inning, it really wasn’t all that bad. The walk and the double came late in the inning after he’d already labored, but he labored because he gave up a bunch of dink-and-dunk-and-dribbler hits. Nothing that would concern you beyond the fact that, since Richard doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, that’ll happen sometimes. In other words, I didn’t see anything from him that was especially concerning. (I’m also pretty sure he got a double play that would have ended the inning before the Cubs lost the lead, but the runner at first was called safe.)
- Tommy La Stella got back into Cactus League action for the first time since March 7, when he was scratched with some calf tightness that, at the time, figured to have him out for a day or two. Spring Training being what it is, that day or two turned into two and a half weeks. But he got into the game today, came to the plate a few times, ran the bases, played at third base, and he looked fine. His options situation (he has them) could be the reason he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, but it’s hard to argue he’s not the best overall option for the Cubs’ bench.
- Matt Szczur, with whom La Stella is probably competing for a bench spot, also got into the game for a couple at bats, running the bases, and playing center field. If he and La Stella are now totally healthy, the battle there comes down to the risk in losing Szczur (he has no options left), the value Szczur provides defensively in the outfield and on the basepaths, and the valuable contact lefty bat that La Stella provides.
- And then there’s Munenori Kawasaki, the unlikely third competitor for that final bench job. He started the game at shortstop, had a couple more hits (including a double), and has put together a fantastic Spring. Were the Cubs not so likely to go with eight relievers, and were they not already deep on the bench, I’d have said you have to find a way to keep this guy, not only because he’s so much fun, but because he genuinely offers a lot of defensive and baserunning value.
- With 10 hits in the game, 6 of which were for extra bases, you’d’ve liked to have seen the Cubs get more than four runs, by the way. I’ll care more about that kind of thing in a couple weeks, though it’s not like the Cubs were striking themselves out of scoring – they K’d just 5 times in the game.