Three takeaways from Cubs win over Reds
|Monday, March 22, 2021, 8:35 AM- -|
The Cubs capped off a perfect week in which they went 5-0-2 by winning their fifth straight game, topping the Reds 11-6. Chicago played long ball in this one, connecting for four home runs to back starter Alec Mills. Those homers accounted for seven of the 11 runs as Chicago never trailed in this one.
In his bid to earn the final spot in the rotation, Mills was roughed up for a second straight start allowing three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings of work. Mills walked one and struck out one, but his ERA has risen to 5.91 on the spring. Fortunately for him, he didn't need his best stuff as the Cubs backed him with immediate offensive support.
Not only did Eric Sogard lead off the bottom of the first with his first homer of the spring, but the suddenly scorching Jake Marisnick went deep a few pitches later as the Cubs hit back-to-back homers to begin the game. Cincinnati cut that deficit in half in the top of the first off, a Kyle Holder RBI single as Mills battled through some adversity that inning.
Looking to snap out of a struggling spring, David Bote took matters into his own hands by belting a three-run homer in the bottom of the third to push the Cubs in front 5-1.
Bote was just getting started as he would later home again for a five-RBI day.
Once again, the Reds refused to go down quietly as Kyle Farmer got in on the homer fun to make things 5-3.
With Dan Winkler getting through the fifth inning in relief of Mills, he gave way to Dillon Maples in the sixth as the righty is looking to make the opening day roster. Maples has always been known to have great stuff, but his command has always been an issue. With two walks and a hit allowed in his one inning of work, his struggles continued as Nicky Delmonico grounded into a fielder's choice to bring things 5-4.
That would be as close as Cincinnati would get as Bote teed off for the second time in-game in the bottom of the sixth, extending the lead to 7-4. A Patrick Wisdom RBI single in the seventh brought things to 8-4 before Brandon Workman allowed his first run of the spring in the top of the eight, with Kyle Farmer ripping a double to make it 8-5.
A two RBI-single off Rafael Ortega's bat, followed by an Ian Miller single, made things 11-5 as the Cubs would eventually win 11-6. With a 12-5-3 mark, the Cubs need just one more win to guarantee themselves at worst a .500 record this spring and travel to face the Angels on Monday.
So, who is the favorite for the No. 5 starting job?
When Spring training began, the Cubs came in with three solidified starters and many arms vying for a job. With Trevor Williams performing the way he has, I think it is safe to say he has grabbed one of those spots leaving just one more spot up for grabs.
Guys like Shelby Miller, Adbert Alzolay, and Mills are the three inline for that final spot, and all should get one more go around before camp ends. Alzolay was the one most wanted to see get the job, but given his struggles and having an option left, he seems ticketed for AAA. Coming off the year Mills had in 2020, he seemed like the one would be given the longest leash this spring.
However, after getting roughed up in two straight starts and struggling in three total, has he done enough to earn the spot, or will he end up in the pen. From a performance side of things, Miller has been the best out of the three and certainly deserves consideration. The last week of spring is what should decide this.
Jake Marisnick is raking
When the Cubs brought in Marisnick to replace Albert Almora, many fans didn't know what to expect? Granted, he may not be the best hitter; Marisnick is known for his glovework but does pack some pop in that right-handed swing of his.
While the glovework hasn't been on display yet, the power has with Marisnick connecting for three homers in just 13 at-bats. A late arrival to camp after dealing with a calf injury, Marisnick is undoubtedly leaving a lasting impression at this point in his efforts to land the fourth outfield job. He is certainly giving David Ross a lot to think about as he continues to see his name in the lineup.
Positional battle -- Ilderamo Vargas or Eric Sogard?
When spring training started, there were a lot of questions as to what the Cubs would do regarding second base. Nico Hoerner certainly is showing he will be the starter to open the season, but who will be his backup? Bote was an option, but he is most likely ticketed to be on the roster no matter what filling in for Hoerner or Kris Bryant when needed.
Ultimately, I think the final bench spot comes down to either Vargas or Sogard, as either one of them would be a great backup to Hoerner. While Vargas may be the slight favorite right now given, he is out of options, Sogard is starting to make his presence felt after missing the first half of spring. Not only is Sogard getting more at-bats at this point, but he is hitting when called upon.
Theoretically, the Cubs could go with both men to open the season, but I find it highly unlikely. Look for both to be in the lineup quite often the next week as their performances decide the final roster spot.