After sweeping a 2 game set in Anaheim, the Cubs made their way back to Arizona to play 4 games against the Diamondbacks. We got to compete with this Arizona team quite a bit in the Cactus League, with mixed results. The Dbacks have some of the most talented players in all of baseball on their roster. The first that comes to mind is Paul Goldschmidt, but Zach Grienke is a close second, and the same can be said for the likes of Shelby Miller and Jean Segura. At the end of this one, the Cubs would take 3 of 4, moving on to Cincinnati feeling good about their play, but pained by the loss of Schwarber.
Coming into the series, I had some concerns that the trip could turn ugly. With all the power in the Arizona lineup, and with Grienke and Miller on the hill for games 3 and 4 respectively, I would not have been surprised if we had struggled mightily. And, on our side, it didn’t seem out of the question that guys in the middle of the rotation could have rough outings.
We did see John Lackey struggle in game 1, but that was a wild game. A lot of runs were scored, and in the end we scored more, and he got the W. All things considered, that’s a damn good result. Of course, the bigger story was Kyle Schwarber. On a fly ball to the left field gap, Schwarber collided with Dexter Fowler, left the game, and, after an MRI, was diagnosed with a torn ACL and LCL, done for the remainder of the season. It was a punch in the gut on a wild night, and it is sure to force some changes to the blueprint for the rest of the year.
But holy cow the rest of the rotation looked strong. In game 2, Jason Hammel pitched a gem, and that was the only game we lost. Dude threw 6 innings of 4 hit ball, surrendering just 1 run in what was a low scoring affair. That loss was on the offense, who were able to muster only 2 runs, with the first coming on a walk to Heyward with the bases loaded, and the second on a Zobrist groundout into a fielder’s choice. As bad as we were from the plate that night, you can’t even give the guys in the bullpen a hard time for blowing a 2-1 lead late, and the Cubs going on to lose 3-2.
Game 3 saw Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ 5th starter, face off against Arizona ace Zach Grienke, the recent signatory of $200 million, 6 year deal. After getting shelled in his first outing, it was pretty unexpected to see more of the same from Grienke, as he struggled mightily against the Cub’s lineup. Allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, Grienke looked like the number 5 starter in this ballgame, while Hendricks worked like a top of the rotation guy. A couple doubles from Kris Bryant, and 1 each for MANtero and Zobrist later, and the Cubs walked away with a 4-2 victory, and a save for Rondon.
In the final game of the series, we got to watch Jake Arrieta take the hill for the Cubs, matching up against the very talented Shelby Miller for Arizona. Arrieta continued to pitch well, delivering a quality 7 inning performance. Perhaps Arrieta’s biggest contribution would come at the plate by way of a 2-run SHOT that traveled an estimated 450 feet. This game also saw Miguel Montero hit 2 doubles, and a huge game out of Tommy La Stella. In another interesting twist, Kris Bryant played both corner outfield spots, and a little 3rd base, as the Cubs would go on to win by a count of 7-3, taking 3 of 4 from the Dbacks, and heading into their first divisional game against Cincinnati where Jon Lester will begin the series.