Imanaga makes debut, Dodgers top Cubs
Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports

Imanaga makes debut, Dodgers top Cubs

by - Senior Writer -

In one of the most anticipated debuts of the Spring, prized left-hander Shota Imanaga made his Chicago Cubs debut on Saturday. Ironically, that debut came against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the early-season favorites to win the NL.

Facing off against left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, Imanaga pitched exceptionally well as he struck out five hitters in 2 1/3 innings in his debut. The Cubs were waiting for that, as they wanted to see how he would do against live pitching. He proved he has the stuff to make it in this league, but the Dodgers had the last laugh as they took down the Cubs 8-5.

For the first time this Spring, the Cubs lost a game in which they scored first as Matt Mervis opened up the scoring with a second-inning homer. Mervis is getting plenty of opportunities to play this Spring, and although it may not be the prettiest at times, he does seem to be coming around. That homer was long overdue, and he continues to prove he will be one of the last cuts if he doesn't make this roster.

The lone blemish on Imanaga's line came in the bottom half of the second as the first three batters gave him fits. Not only did Max Muncy and Teoscar Hernandez open things up with singles, but Andy Pages delivered the decisive blow as his three-run shot put the Dodgers in front 3-1. It was a lead they wouldn't give back as Imanaga was very good, minus those three hitters.

Playing catchup for the first time, the Cubs continued to use the long ball to stay close, with Mike Tauchman going deep for his first homer to pull Chicago within 3-2 in the fourth.

Los Angeles answered in the bottom half of the fourth, and the answer came against Hayden Wesneski, whose nightmare of a spring continues. Coming off the season he had, a lot of eyes were on Wesneski as he is one of those guys trying to make the team.

After a rough first outing of the Spring, Wesneski appeared to be locked in during the third, only to have a leadoff hit by pitch set the tone in the fourth. Pages added a single two batters later, with Austin Gauthier working a walk as the Dodgers had the bases loaded and two outs. Had Wesneski been able to wiggle out of that jam, his line wouldn't have been bad, but the bases-clearing double from Drew Avans ended that as Los Angeles opened up their largest lead of the game, 6-2.

With Carl Edwards Jr and Mark Leiter Jr each working a pair of scoreless frames, the Cubs remained within striking distance, but it would come down to their offense to get the job done. Some of those answers came against Ryan Braiser in the seventh as Jake Slaughter began the seventh with a leadoff single before using his legs to steal second. Alexander Canario followed that up with a walk before Owen Caissie delivered another RBI hit to make things 6-3.

For all the talk of Pete Crow-Armstrong, Matt Shaw, and Cade Horton, Caissie has been by far the most impressive prospect this Spring and is certainly making a case to be the top-ranked prospect before season end. The Cubs continued to battle back later in that inning, with Moises Ballesteros pushing home a run with an RBI groundout ahead of the Luis Vazquez two-out single as the Cubs were within 6-5.

That was the end of the road for Braiser, who was lifted for Michael Hobbs as he got out of the inning without further damage. Unfortunately for the Cubs, those would be the final runs they would score in the game, but for them to have any chance at a comeback, the pitching would have to continue to do their job.

Even with Luke Little walking a pair of batters in the seventh, the big lefty found a way to battle back and got through the inning without any damage to keep things 6-5. Then came the eighth when Pablo Aliendo scorched a one-out double off of Justin Wilson to put the tying run at second, only to have Slaughter and Cole Roederer end the inning without any damage.

The Dodgers officially put the game away against Richard Lovelady in the eighth as Kody Hoese started things off with a triple before coming home a few pitches later on the Josue De Paula homer to make things 8-5. The Dodgers had a chance to add on even more runs, but a costly baserunning mistake from Brandon Davis prevented that from happening.

Hoping for one last chance to make things interesting, Christian Franklin began the ninth with a leadoff single off of Lucas Wepf as the Cubs had a baserunner aboard. That is as far as things got as Wepf settled in to retire the next three hitters and gave the Dodgers the 8-5 victory.

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