09 March 2008

Spring LiveBlog -- Cubs-Royals

I figured I'd use Sunday's WGN matinee as an excuse to do my first live blog on the Pipeline.

3:19 -- I meant to be here from the start but got caught up in a game of MLB 08: The Show so missed the very start of the actual game. Turned over in time to see Royals starter Brett Tomko give up a wall rocket to Cubbies IF prospect Micah Hoffpauir, then turned back to finish my game, flipped back over to notice Daryle Ward had knocked in Hoffpauir, but then Tomko made a nice snag off the mound to get out of the inning with no further damage. Royals came up and went down 1-2-3 on Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who the announcers say may win the #3 starter spot for Chicago. All that money and Dempster's your #3 starter?

3:25 -- By the way, I noticed the Royals have the Killer Gs in the lineup in the 2-5 spots -- Grudz, Gload, Guillen and Gordon. Tony Pena just totally mishandled a short pop up in left center and it dropped right behind him but luckily Alex Cintron tried to go for 2 on the play and Pena was able to get him at second. Not too slick looking of a play, tho. Felix Pie follows with a rocket double on an apparent fastball up and out over the plate, so Cintron's Berroa play on the bases probably saved the Royals a run, even if in spring they don't really count. Tomko gets out of the 2nd stranding Pie at second.

3:29 -- What a Royals debut for Jose Guillen -- one pitch and a weak chopper to second for an out. It can only go up from here, right? Alex Gordon got caught looking on an iffy third strike call, so right now Dempster's being made to look like Nolan Ryan. Billy Butler makes solid contact but grounds the ball right to former Royal Andres Blanco, who I had no idea had caught on with the Cubs at short. That's six up, six down for KC.

3:40 -- Tomko has yet to have a smooth inning as Alfonso Soriano singles to lead off the 3rd. Another Cubs IF prospect, Eric Patterson (Corey's younger brother) follows up a pitiful bunt single attempt (popping it over by the third base dugout) by flying to Teahen in left, who battles the sun as the ball bounces off his glove for a single. Soriano gets to third while Patterson goes to second on the play. Tomko's throwing a lot of pitches, and still has no outs in the 3rd. Hoffpauir comes back up and swings at a couple bad pitches before lofting a sac fly off a good pitch to DeJesus in center. 2-0, Cubs. Ward follows by knocking in Patterson to make it 3-0. Tomko isn't fooling anyone.

3:47 -- Tomko grooves one that Murton drives for a single and Bob McClure makes his first appearance of the day. Tomko survives the trip to the mound to face Geovany Soto, who hits one off Tomko's glove that Grudz tries to underhand to Pena, who can't handle the high throw and everyone's safe. Good God, the Royals are looking like the Keystone Kops thus far in the field. Two sun-blind fly balls fall in and now this. Why again didn't Dayton Moore do anything to upgrade the defense this offseason? Cintron comes up and laces a double to clear the bases for 3 runs and a 6-0 Cubs lead. A quick look at Cintron's Baseball Reference page tells me that, if those actually counted as season stats, that hit would have given him nearly 1/6th of his season RBI from last season when he had 19 for the White Sox.

3:53 -- The neverending inning continues as Felix Pie walks and Tomko finally hits the showers. Not exactly a lockdown performance for the #4 rotation spot for Brett. 6 runs in 2 1/3 IP, although the defense did him no favors. Roberto Giron comes in and Cubs color commentator Bob Brenly seems to think Giron has any kind of legitimate shot at making the Royals' pen, which I would seriously doubt. Maybe that's part of the reason Brenly's no longer the D-Backs manager. Or maybe he's just trying to be kind. Andres Blanco helps out his old team by grounding into a 4-6-3 DP to end the inning. That only took 15 minutes or so.

4:03 -- Meanwhile, the Royals are still making their first way through the lineup off Dempster. Mark Teahen bats seventh and actually takes some pitches as a 3-0 count becomes full before he draws a leadoff walk. No meaningless perfecto for the Cubs today. John Buck takes a leadoff walk and Soto immediately pays a visit to Dempster on the mound to ask him why he's screwing around with somebody that hit under .200 in the secon half last season. Just speculation, there. Buck makes him pay with a double to score Teahen, who beats the relay throw from Blanco to the plate. Another nice bit of baserunning from Teahen. Tony Pena comes up and gets plunked on the arm by Dempster, who seems to be having some control problems in the 3rd. Looks like it hit him in the left bicep, but he's OK. Brenly thinks the Cubs' long half-inning is the culprit for Dempster's wildness. I say it's Dempster finally being Dempster. The last time he was a regular starter -- for Cincy in 2003 -- he had a 6.54 ERA in 115 2/3 IP. The last three years as a reliever for Chicago he's been solid to good, so the move to the rotation makes no sense to me. Gload hits into a double play and Dempster wriggles out of the inning.

4:11 -- Leo Nunez takes the mound to start the 4th for KC. I was impressed by Leo last year....and he still looks like a 12-year-old with a tiny goatee. Soriano pops to center and DeJesus actually makes the catch for out #1. Nunez gives up a single to right to Patterson and Hoffpauir does the same and a jam has been created. Runners at the corners, 1 out. Nunez uncorks a wild pitch scoring Patterson and it's 7-1. Ward singles to make it 3-3 on the day as Nunez is giving up some solid hits here.

4:18 -- Nunez got a 6-4-3 DP ball to escape the inning abruptly with only 1 run of damage, and we're headed to the bottom of the 4th. Guillen leads off the Royals 4th off Dempster and, continuing the trend from his first AB, swings early and grounds out to third. Gordon K'd again in not even seeming to put up a fight at the plate, and Butler grounds out to Blanco to put the Royals down meekly.

4:23 -- Nunez comes back out for the 5th and, hey! it's an easy inning. 1-2-3. Let's see if the Royals can build on that 1-hit, 1-run effort thus far.

4:31 -- There's a Kerry Wood sighting in Surprise as the pitcher takes the mound for the Cubs for the 5th. The announcers note he's been hitting 98 mph this spring. He hits the high 90s a few times facing Teahen, who fights off a pitch and grounds out to third. Buck pops out and Pena Ks to make it another short inning for the Royals.

4:40 -- Nunez is out for yet another inning of work and gets a quick fly out to left to start the 6th as Tony Pena almost collides with Teahen on the play. Soriano pops into short foul territory in left and Grudzielanek drops the ball for another Royals "webgem" from Sunday. Soriano Ks anyway before Patterson draws a walk. Hoffpauir continues his great day with a triple to score Patterson and make it 8-1. It's days like this that make the thought of the Royals being competitive seem like a near impossibility. I know it's just a spring training game but to see the Royals do very little right today is disheartening.

4:48 -- Nunez grooves another pitch and Ward makes it a 4-4 day with an RBI double. That was a nice hit off a not-so-good pitch. There's another McClure sighting but Nunez stays in the game. Murton grounds down the line to Gordon, who pulls Gload into foul territory with the throw but Gload keeps his toe on the bag to get KC out of the inning down, 9-1. Carmen Pigniatello comes on to pitch the 6th for the Cubs and induces a DeJesus fly out. Grudzielanek hits a broken bat lazy liner to short for out #2 and Gload grounds out to second on a close play to make it another quick half-inning.

4:57 -- Ron Mahay pitches the 7th for KC and gets a hard groundout before giving up a single to right and a hit up the middle that Pena can't handle to put runners at first and second with 1 out. They credit Felix Pie with an infield single on the play. I was excited at first before they said Mahay was on because I thought it was Royals farmhand Rowdy Hardy pitching. No such luck, although Mahay gets paid a lot more than Hardy and the Royals are expecting more out of him. Mahay gives up an RBI double to Andres Blanco as the banner day for KC continues.

5:09 --
A 4-pitch walk loads the bases but Mahay strikes out Patterson and gets pinch-hitter Jake Fox to pop out to second baseman Esteban German to get out of the inning. Mike Wuertz comes out to pitch the 7th for Chicago and gets Jose Guillen to fly out to center. I think Jose saw 5 pitches in his 3 ABs today. I guess he doesn't want to try and wait for his pitch, but it's only his first game. Gordon follows up his two ugly strikeout ABs by doubling off the wall on a nice swing, but Damon Hollins pops out in foul territory on a 3-1 pitch and Mark Teahen has an ugly check-swing strike before striking out swinging to end the minor threat.

5:22-- Yasuhiko Yabuta makes his TV debut as a Royal in the 8th and starts 3-0 on the leadoff guy before coming back to force a groundout to Shealy at first. A single to right is followed by a swinging K and a single to left to put 2 on with 2 out. Pie singles off Shealy's glove to make it 11-1 before Yabuta gets a groundout to first to get out of the inning. Not a bad frame for the Japanese import as the Cubs didn't really cream anything he threw.

5:30 -- Matt Tupman leads off the KC 8th and grounds out to short on a bouncer up the middle. Tony Pena swings at a bad pitch from Cubs lefty Neal Cotts and grounds out to third before Gathright grounds out to short to make it another paltry offensive inning for KC.

5:40 -- Julio Pimentel pitches the 9th for KC. This seems like a very long game but it's only been 2 1/2 hours -- maybe it's because KC has looked awful all around, pretty much. He walks the leadoff guy before giving up a 2-run jack to Patterson, who has looked good today. He gets a pop out for the first out and then two ground outs finish out the inning at 13-1 Cubs.

5:46 -- So it's down to the Royals' last hurrah in this pitiful spring outing. Carlos Marmol is on to pitch and German flies out to deep right to lead off the inning. Shealy goes from a 3-0 count to grounding out to third on a 3-1 pitch and it's down to Mitch Maier. Maier works the count full before flying out to deep center and that's all she wrote. 13-1, Cubs.

I chose one crappy game to debut a liveblog. The Royals manage only 2 hits with just as many errors. Yikes.

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