Cubs drop split-squad nightcap to Guardians

Cubs drop split-squad nightcap to Guardians

by - Senior Writer -

GOODYEAR - After coming away with a 5-3 win earlier in the day to move to 15-10-1 this spring, the Chicago Cubs (15-11-1) have guaranteed themselves, at worst, a .500 record for Spring Training. I know none of this matters in the end, but it is nice to be heading into the regular season with some positive momentum.

Unlike earlier in the day where most of the games were major league talent, the nightcap of their day-night split was more of a traditional spring training roster filled with major and minor league players. Looking to make one last impression on David Ross before he decides who will be the teams No. 5 starter, Adrian Sampson made the start and continued to be hurt by the long ball as the Guardians rallied late for the 5-3 win.

Sampson has been much better in his last two starts, and his line was ok tonight, going five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out four. His problem all spring has been the long ball, and when all three runs you allow come on the homer, it is a concern. Compare that to Hayden Wesneski, who has been impressive all spring, and Sampson may have pitched himself out of the No. 5 job, which leaves a massive question as to what to do with him in a week.

Opposing the Cubs righty was a fellow righty of his own in Zach Plesac, as this was also his final tune-up of the spring. Unlike Sampson, Plesac was able to keep the ball in the yard, but still gave up plenty of hard contact early. He also went five innings and allowed three runs while striking out six.

Most of the Cubs damage against Plesac came in the first inning, as they wanted to start fast and set the tone. A one-out single from Tucker Barnhardt was a good start, but the two-out double from Edwin Rios opened the scoring and gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. One batter later saw Luis Torrens double the lead as he, too, got in on the extra base action with an RBI double of his own.

Pitching with the lead is always a great feeling as a starter, but it only works when you can hold the lead or even keep the ball in the yard. After Sampson retired the first two hitters he faced, it was the long ball that did him in again, with Jose Ramirez and Josh Bell unloading for back-to-back jacks and helping make things even again, 2-2. Take that away, and Sampson was good, but he wasn't good enough.

Sampson continued to struggle in the early going, allowing a two-out single from Mike Zunino in the second while the Myles Straw double put runners on second and third. Fortunately, Sampson was able to avoid the damage, but you to be concerned with the contact early. Across the next two innings, both starters settled into a groove as baserunners were limited. That was until the fifth inning when the Cubs finally got after Plesac again.

It all started with a Nelson Velazquez walk to lead things off as he would advance to third on the Christopher Morel single. One batter later saw Barnhardt put the Cubs in front 3-2 using a sacrifice fly to get the job done. Like in the first inning when the Cubs initially gave Sampson the lead, he was unable to hold onto it with Straw leading off the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot as both pitchers were finished after five innings, and the score tied 3-3.

You had to like the Cubs chances in what was now a battle of the bullpens, as their pen has pitched very well this spring. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in the sixth, as Manny Rodriguez had a rough go of things. Not only did he allow consecutive singles to Oscar Gonzalez and Andres Gimenez to start the inning, but a third straight single by Meibrys Viloria put the Guardians in front for good, 4-3.

Will Brennan added another single later in the frame to stretch the lead to 5-3 before a hit batter was the final straw for Rodriguez. Ben Hecht came in to finish the inning, but the damage was already done. Not only did Eli Morgan toss a scoreless sixth for Cleveland, but so did James Karinchak in the seventh, as the Cubs had their work cut out for them late.

Mark Leiter Jr kept the score where it was with a scoreless seventh, while Nick Burdi overcame some wildness in the eighth to send the game to the ninth with the Cubs trailing 5-3. Down to their final three outs and needing a base runner off of Kyle Marmon to bring the tying run to the plate, Zach Davis picked up a one-out single.

Always a threat to go on the bases, Davis advanced to second on a wild pitch, but nothing else came from it as Marmon retired the final two hitters to preserve the win and earn the save for Cleveland. The Cubs had seven hits in the game coming from seven different players as they continued to get balance across their lineup. The Cubs return to action tomorrow when they face off with the Los Angeles Angels.

Comment on this story
Send Feedback to Dustin Riese: Email | Comment
Post your comments!