Fly the W: Velazquez crushes walk-off blast in win over Padres
Velasquez celebrates with this teammates (Photo courtesy: Marquee Sports Network)

Fly the W: Velazquez crushes walk-off blast in win over Padres

by - Senior Writer -

MESA - Say what you want about the Cubs and their struggling offense right now. Sure, it is not ideal timing, especially with the regular season less than two weeks away, but it is still spring training. More often than not, hitters are working on some things this time of year to see if things work, which often results in struggles.

The Cubs have gone through that over the past week, but they are remaining competitive as their starting pitching has held up. With Justin Steele on the mound for the Cubs, it was another low-scoring affair as the Cubs and Padres were deadlocked 2-2 heading into the ninth inning. That set the stage for Nelson Velazquez, who connected for a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Cubs to the walk-off 5-2 victory.

Steele has been up and down this spring, but missing the first couple of weeks due to shoulder tightness could be the cause. Despite allowing just one run on four hits, Steele struggled with his command as he walked five and struck out three. That is why he was out of the game after just three innings.

However, as long as the Cubs continue to get great pitching from their pen, including guys like Michael Fulmer, Keegan Thompson, and Tyler Duffey, this team will always have a chance to come away with wins. From the start, the command was an issue for Steele as he walked the first two hitters he faced to put himself in a jam. On the verge of getting out of the jam, Brandon Dixon cashed in with an RBI single to give San Diego the 1-0 lead, but that was the only lead they would have.

Opposing Steele was right-hander Julio Tehran who has been known to have strong outings against the Cubs. Unlike Steele, Tehran was dialed in from the start and kept the Cubs off balance which helped San Diego maintain their 1-0 lead. You could argue that the game's turning point came in the second inning when Steele continued to have command issues.

After retiring the first two hitters, Steele suddenly lost his feel for the strike zone and walked the bases loaded. On the verge of a big inning, Steele got Matt Carpenter to ground out as the inning ended with no runs pushed across. The Padres kept the pressure on again in the third as they loaded the bases for a second straight inning.

This time it came off a trio of singles from Nelson Cruz, Rougned Odur, and Tim Lopes before Steele once again got out of the inning unharmed. The first golden opportunity for the Cubs came in the bottom of the third, with Nico Hoerner connecting for the one-out triple. However, nothing came from that hit as Tehran got through the inning to keep the Padres in front.

It took the Cubs four innings to solve Tehran, but Yan Gomes came through with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and put an end to the shutout bid with a solo shot.

This was the third homer of the spring for Gomes, as he leads the team in that category. Gomes was just getting started and added an RBI single two innings later to plate Trey Mancini, which put the Cubs in front 2-1.

Despite a shaky relief outing from Thompson, he managed to keep the Padres off the board before Nick Burdi and Duffey made quick of things in the sixth and seventh innings. However, in the eighth inning, San Diego started to rally once again and made things interesting down the stretch.

With Bailey Horn called on to pitch, the big left-hander started his outing with a pair of strikeouts before allowing a two-out single to David Dahl. That proved costly as Brett Sullivan cashed in with an RBI triple a few pitches later, helping bring things back to even 2-2. Horn would walk the next hitter, but got out of the jam without further damage to keep things tied 2-2.

Down to their final three outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs knew it was now or never if they wanted to come away with a win. Dom Nunez did his part by leading off the ninth with a walk. Parker Chavers entered the game as a pinch runner and would advance to second on the Nick Madrigal single to put the Cubs offense in business.

Needing a single to win the game, Velazquez needed just three pitches to deliver the final blow as his three-run walk-off lifted the Cubs past the Padres 5-2 and moved them to 11-9-1 this spring.

The Cubs had eight hits in the ball game, with Gomes leading the way with two hits and two RBIs. Despite the Cubs pitching staff walking seven, five came from Steele as they ended up with 11 punchouts. Chicago will have Monday off for their final off day of Spring Training.

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