Chicago Cubs: Los Angeles Angels
The Good: Junior Lake hit arguably the longest home run in new Cubs Park as he cleared the grass beyond the left-field fence where fans sit during the game. It was Lake’s fourth home run in his past two games as he’s come alive at the end of spring training. Extra work and fine-tuning have made the difference for Lake, who had struggled much of the spring. Prospect Dan Vogelbach had two hits while starting at first base, and backup catcher George Kottaras doubled off the wall late in the game.
Relievers Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon both threw scoreless innings as Rondon was hitting 99 mph on the in-stadium radar gun.
The Bad: Reliever Alberto Cabrera got rocked in the ninth inning trying to preserve a 4-2 Cubs lead. He gave up a home run, triple, double and single to the first four batters he faced. Cabrera was pitching well this spring to the point of probably making the team, but Tuesday was simply a bad day for the righty, who got only one hitter out before departing. His ERA rose from 1.00 to 5.79. Nothing he gave up was cheap.
What’s Next: The Cubs will make the hour trip to Peoria, Ariz., to take on the San Diego Padres at 9 p.m. CST. Top pitching prospect CJ Edwards will make his Cactus League debut in the game.
The Cubs' leader in strikeouts had given up 10 home runs in his previous 18 starts combined in 2013. He surrendered four home runs in 4⅔ innings of work against the Angels on Wednesday evening.
“Right now I have to go back to do what works for [me],” said Samardzija (5-9).
“For me it is my fastball and sinker down in the zone. You also have to see what they are hitting. If they are jumping all over the fastball and they are taking sliders and off-speed pitches, you need to change your sequences.”
The Angels were mashing 96 mph flat fastballs from the northwest Indiana native.
“For him, and I am sure he will tell you this, when he flies open [with the pitching motion], the ball gets flat and he gets hit,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
At different points of a 162-game season, pitchers often see their pitches flatten out. That is sometimes referred to as the dead-arm syndrome among pitching coaches. Samardzija will have nine days to get it right between starts before facing the Colorado Rockies on July 19 in Denver.
“I will take all of these days and go back to the drawing board,” Samardzija said. “This kind of happened to me last year heading up to the break. I came out in the second half of the season with my pants on fire.”
He recorded a 2.55 ERA in his last 13 starts of 2012.
The 4⅔ innings represented Samardzija’s shortest outing of 2013. The four home runs were the most he has allowed in one major league appearance. The nine earned runs tied his career high as well.
“I will get some good work in and come out with guns blazing in Colorado,” he said.
CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Angels have been waiting for this to happen, and Jeff Samardzija and the Chicago Cubs wanted no part of it. A lineup that looked potent in January finally produced like its payroll as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout & Co. tore up Wrigley Field on Wednesday to the tune of 13 runs and 15 hits -- five leaving the park -- in a blowout victory.
“We’re capable of doing it,” Hamilton said after his two-homer evening powered the Angels to a 13-2 win. “From top to bottom. Any night. The key is doing it day in and day out.”
Hamilton said once Samardzija started missing the zone, he knew fastballs were coming over the plate. That’s when Hamilton and Pujols teed off. They went back-to-back for the first time as teammates in a six-run fifth inning.
But his manager is thinking about what he and Pujols can do if they get hot together. Pujols walked three times in addition to going deep.
“With Albert and Josh, those are two guys critical to where we want to be,” Mike Scioscia said. “To see them have such good nights in the same game, hope we see more of it.”
Trout was part of the explosion, as well, getting three hits including two doubles. He’s hitting .389 since June 14.
Overall, the Angels liked hitting in the friendly confines of Wrigley, at least on Wednesday. Travis Wood shut them down 24 hours earlier, but even with a slight wind blowing in, Los Angeles had its way against Samardzija.
“All the home runs, they were hit well,” Scioscia said. “It wasn’t like it was howling. You had to hit it legitimately to get it out, especially to center field.”
Hamilton spoke about other elements
“I really like the lights here. It’s a little bit darker,” he said. “I like that. Just the atmosphere, in general. It’s pretty special.”
The Cubs may someday produce a lineup like the one the Angels can trot out. They agreed to a contract Wednesday with the No. 2 pick in the draft, slugging third baseman Kris Bryant. But he and other prospects are babies compared to the résumés of the Angels’ mashers. This is their time -- if they can put it all together.
“It was a fun thing to do,” Hamilton simply stated.
He let his bat do the rest of his talking.
This one was over early, as the Los Angeles Angels erupted for five runs in the first inning off Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzijagave up home runs to Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo after leadoff doubles by Erick Aybar and Mike Trout got L.A. on the board. Hamilton homered again in a six-run fifth inning, as did Albert Pujols. Brendan Harris completed the hat trick of long balls in the fifth, when he went deep off of Henry Rodriguez.
The Angels also added solo runs in the eighth and ninth innings, as every one of their starters had at least one hit in the game. The Cubs got on the board when Anthony Rizzo drove in Cody Ransom in the fourth.
What it means: Samardzija may have ruined any outside chance he had at being a replacement All-Star. He had no life on his fastball, which was hit hard. He has shown the opposite of the consistency of Travis Wood, who pitched the night before and shut down the same lineup. Samardzija has said in the past he gets up for big games; he needs to do the same in between them.
Outside the box: Before the game, general manager Jed Hoyer said prospect Junior Lake wasn’t an imminent call-up from Iowa, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility this season. ... Pitcher Jake Arietta, acquired for Scott Feldman recently, was rusty in his second start for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, giving up 10 hits in 3.2 IP. Hoyer said he gets a mulligan.
What’s next: The Cubs begin their final series before the All-Star break when they host the St. Louis Cardinals, beginning on Thursday night. Edwin Jackson opposes Jake Westbrook in the series opener.
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The Good: Brett Jackson continued a good start to the spring by tripling in his first two at-bats, while Luis Valbuena homered to lead off the second inning. Those are players fighting for roster and/or starting spots. Travis Wood had an easy second inning of work. The Cubs' hitters picked up where they left off in intra-squad games, putting up 11 runs, including a five-run second inning and four-run eighth inning. Their approach at the plate has been solid.
The Bad: Wood started out slow, walking the leadoff man and then giving up a double. Both runners scored before he settled down.
Prospect Watch: All the major prospects who played had hits. Junior Lake hit a long home run to left -- after striking out twice -- while Jorge Soler doubled in a run. Both Logan Watkins and Javier Baez had hits and scored runs as well.
What we learned: Whatever Brett Jackson did over the winter is starting to pay off, and the fact that he’s having success early is only going to inspire him to keep at it. Valbuena handled his business at third base and at the plate, which is good news considering Ian Stewart is out up to three weeks with a quad injury. The jury is still out on Travis Wood, as he’ll need to show consistency, but his second inning was solid. Overall, the Cubs' approach at the plate in a small sample size of intra-squad games and one Cactus League contest has been very good.
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com
DENVER -- On a night when Carlos Zambrano returned to the mound for the first time since June 25, the focus wasn't on the star-crossed Cubs pitcher but more on whether his team would be impacted to the point of distraction by the trades of Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot earlier in the day.
"You always want to be the team adding and have a shot," first baseman Derrek Lee said. "But it hasn't worked out for us this year. This year is something none of us could have expected to be in. All of us thought we would be contending for a playoff spot."
Although the Cubs fought back to tie the game in the eighth inning on Lee's three-run homer, Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez put another exclamation point on a loss for the Cubs with a 462-foot walk-off homer off Sean Marshall to complete a cycle and a 6-5 victory.
"It's been a rough year," Lee said. "No question about it, it has been a rough season so far. That's what happens when you have a rough four months. The organization has to make a decision which direction we want to go."
It appears general manager Jim Hendry already made that decision when he tried to trade Lee earlier in the week to the Los Angeles Angels and then followed that up by trading Lilly and Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Look for Hendry to continue to try to deal other players off his team over the next month through the waiver process.
According to sources, others teams besides the usual suspects (Tampa bay Rays, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels) have been brought into the Bradley discussions over the past 24 hours. Trading Bradley is a multi-faceted situation. Any team that is going to trade for him is going to want to talk to Bradley and his agent about the acceptability of a new home for the veteran outfielder.
It is assumed that the Cubs will get back a contract in the trade that they may have to move as well. But if the Cubs are able to pull off a deal at this point, it would open up some other areas for Cubs general manager Jim Hendry to add some depth.
Hendry talked to the Colorado Rockies recently about some of their outfield depth. It is unknown exactly whom the Rockies would be willing to trade.
The Padres will trade closer Heath Bell, but the Cubs may not have the young prospects the Padres would want for their all-star closer. It is known however that the Cubs are looking to add a veteran pitcher to their bullpen.