I like the way this Padres team is approaching the game.
After an offensive outburst of 11 runs against Texas on Sunday, the San Diego Padres continued to put points on the board in the Cactus League on Monday, thrashing the Chicago Cubs 7-1. As in Sunday’s game, they used extra-base hits and played small ball to amass a significant number of runs.
After watching the last two Spring games, this Padres lineup seems more fun to watch than any in recent memory. After a number of years in which the team struggled to move baserunners or drive the ball with authority, this group seems to be doing both well. The postgame fireworks were less interesting than the fireworks on the field.
The game was played at the Cubs new home in Mesa, AZ. Nice ballpark, had the feel of a nicer minor league stadium. Good food choices. (I had the vegan stirfry noodles and a quesadilla.) Starpower. (There was an autograph booth that boasted Gaylord Perry, George Foster, Tony LaRussa, Jim Mudcat Grant, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Willie Wilson, and others, in person. Wow!) A 50/50 raffle where the winner took home over $6,000. And a baseball lover’s dream on the scoreboard between innings: First, a video explanation of an unwritten rule of baseball when a pitcher allows back-to-back homers and the next hitter takes a huge cut at the first pitch. (Guess what, he gets thrown at.) And then a detailed explanation of the SABR stat FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching. I’m a stat junkie, and this had some new information for me. The Cubs clearly care about having knowledgeable fans. Awesome! The game was sold out, and the atmosphere was electric.
My only beef was that the “Beers of the World” stand offered only Bud, Bud Light, Mich Ultra, Corona, Dos Equis, and Negro Modelo. More like “Beers from within a couple of hundred miles of here”. Ah well, I wasn’t here to drink tonight; I was here to watch the 2014 Padres play baseball. And play they did.
The Cubs got on the board first, when leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio laced a triple to left field. This guy is fast. He was pulling into third standing up by the time the cutoff man received the ball. A groundball later, and it was 1-0. Eric Stults settled down very nicely after that, as that was the only run he allowed all night. Stultsie finished with 5.2 innings, allowing 5 hits, a walk, and a HBP, and striking out three.
The Padres offense picked up where they left off the night before, tying the game at one in the second inning on a leadoff single by Jedd Gyorko and a booming double by Seth Smith. And although Nick Hundley moved Smith to third base with a grounder to the right side, Smith was stranded. But productive outs that advance baserunners are a good thing, and something that has been lacking over the last few years. If we continue to see that all year long, we’re going to see more runs and more wins this year.
I haven’t seen Yonder Alonso yet in these two games, with Xavier Nady manning first base on Sunday, and Tommy Medica playing there Monday night. These guys are all having good Springs, trying to force Bud Black to keep them on the 25-man roster when he makes his cuts later this week. Nady is at .326 with 2 bombs and 8 rbi, Medica at .349 with three homers and 8 rbi, and and Alonso hitting .395 and slugging .628 for the Spring. Medica put more pressure on Black with a 2-run blast in the 4th last night.
In the fifth, Everth Cabrera did what he does, singling to center field, stealing second base, and scoring on Chase Headley’s third RBI-double in the last two games. Seth Smith contributed his second rbi knock of the night with a bases-loaded single.
The Padres advanced a runner again in the 7th, when Carlos Quentin led off with a double and Gyorko moved him to third with a grounder to the right side. Medica’s double-play killed the scoring opportunity, but the runs will come if the team keeps playing smart baseball like that. They proved that in the eighth inning.
Nick Hundley boomed a double over the fence in center, and Alexi Amarista singled, putting runners on first and third. Cabrera laid down a nice sacrifice, moving Amarista to second. Hundley scored and Amarista moved to third on a wild pitch, and the seventh and final run scored on a groundout by Will Venable. Small ball run.
A good, solid 7-1 win. Long hits and small ball. Do them both, and you’ve got yourself a fine offense. So far, in Arizona this week, that’s what we’ve seen.
Tonight: Pads at home against these same Cubs. Andrew Cashner in his final tune-up before facing the Dodgers on Opening Night Sunday.