If this game is any indication, then it's possible Arizona may - and, I stress the word, may - have found a nugget of gold in Rodrigo Lopez. He was almost unhittable this evening, being lifted with two outs in the seventh, having shutout what was basically a full-strength Cubs line-up, allowing only two hits and facing one batter over the minimum. He was hitting his spots, keeping the ball down, and there was really only one hard-hit ball off Lopez the entire evening, a triple with two outs in the fifth.
However, if that was a bright spot, some things seem depressingly to be the same as last season - the Diamondbacks allowed three runs in the eighth, Leo Rosales being charged with all of them. Details after the jump, as well as information on the roster move hinted at in the headline.
Let's start with more about Lopez. He wasn't overpowering - I think his fastball topped out at about 90 mph. But there was plenty of movement, especially late movement, on his pitches, and he was consistently hitting his spots, down around the knees. The only time pitches were elevated were when Lopez wanted them to be, and it's definitely a good sign that only four of the twenty outs he recorded were in the air. A ground-ball double-play and a base-stealer gunned down by Montero helped his cause, but on this performance, he will be more than credible as a #4. His overall spring line ends at 14 hits and four walks in 22 innings, with an ERA of 1.64.
He was relieved by Leo Rosales, who gave up a hit but then got the final out in the seventh without further damage. In the eighth... not so much. A home-run and two more hits followed while Rosales retired only one batter, and a 3-0 lead suddenly became a one-run game. Hinch reached for his .44, in the shape of Juan Gutierrez, who had not conceded a hit in eight innings of Cactus League action. That streak came to an end, and a single tied the game up, but Gutierrez ended the eighth, and ended up getting the win. Chad Qualls threw a 1-2-3 ninth, though it took a spectacular diving play from Gerardo Parra in center to finish the game.
Offensively, the team managed to score five runs, despite not getting a single hit with runners in scoring position. Two-run homers by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Roberts were the main driving force, the former in the fourth inning, the latter breaking the tie in the bottom of the eighth. It's possible it may have been enough to save Roberts' his job, after a dismal spring which saw him hit only .185. However, given that figure was down at .146 before the last couple of games, there has been some improvement down the final stretch.
Arizona's fifth run was something of a thing of beauty, manufactured without a single hit. Miguel Montero walked to lead-off the seventh, and pinch-runner John Hester smartly advanced on a passed ball by former Diamondbacks Koyie Hill. A deep fly-ball by Chris Young then sent Hester to third, and he came home on another fly-ball, this time by Kelly Johnson. Overall, the Cubs outhit Arizona 7-5. Adam LaRoche was the only Arizona batter to reach safely more than once, drawing a pair of walks. That was a surprise, given he had exactly zero free passes in his 44 previous at-bats this spring.
Some roster news after the game, and it's a bit of a surprise, with Clay Zavada getting optioned to Reno, while Jordan Norberto gets to stay with the team. That's a stunning performance by Norberto, who has thrown less than 25 innings above the A-ball level, and didn't exactly make a good impression, posting a 7.99 ERA at Double-A Mobile last summer. However, he has been almost untouchable this spring, Norberto allowing only one hit in 8.2 innings of work - there are still some issues with his control, Norberto walking six batters and hitting another. But Zavada was even worse, walking nine in nine innings and giving up eight earned runs.
I'll update the roster on the sidebar tomorrow, once they work out which two of Roberts, Tony Abreu and Rusty Ryal are going to be present - there's still some chance of a surprise, such as Parra being sent down.Very busy GDT - still rolling on as I write this. Almost dead-on 700 comments, with 'Skins and Wailord, both cracking triple-digits, and BattleMoses in third: I guess we have to keep them on the roster... Also present kishi, Rockkstarr12, snakecharmer, justin1985, emilylovesthedbacks, katers, pygalgia, brian custer, LoveMyDbacks, NASCARbernet, unnamedDBacksfan and Turambar.
Finally, Opening Day has officially sold out. It has also been confirmed that the roof is going to be open, and the club is "advising fans sitting in areas of the ballpark not in the shade to wear a cap and bring sunscreen." In other words people - no whining!