Record 12-9-3. Change on 2013: +2.5
If our hitters were frustrated over their lack of production in the first two and eight-ninth games of the Australia trip, this afternoon provided good, old-fashioned catharsis. We put up four consecutive crooked numbers from the fourth to the sixth, totaling twelve runs, highlighted by a six-run sixth inning that included consecutive first-pitch home-runs off Chris Rusin by Chris Owings, Jordan Parraz and Mike Jacobs. And that was only half of Arizona's bombs at Salt River Fields this afternoon, with the others going to Mark Trumbo, Rudy Flores and Andy Cunningham, on a nicely-favorable day for hitting, with the wind recorded as blowing at 13 mph, straight out to center field.
It seems possible this afternoon is the one that clinched the starting shortstop job for Chris Owings, as he went 2-for-3 with three runs driven in, while his rival Didi Gregorius was hitless in two attempts. That brought Chris's spring average up to .298, compared to Didi's of .195. Defense may still favor Didi, but you'd be hard pushed to argue it has been worth over a hundred points of average, and 332 points of OPS, the margin by which the pre-season numbers favor Owings. There are still four pre-season games left, however, and it's also possible the team could hold onto both until Cody Ross is able to return.
Among the regulars, the offense was led by Aaron Hill, Martin Prado and Miguel Montero, who each had two hits, with Cliff Pennington, Cunningham and Owings also getting a couple of knocks apiece. About the only thing you could complain about was that there was only one walk (to Cunningham), though it must be admitted that the team didn't do much against the Cubs starter, Jeff Samardzija, who held us to one run on four hits over three innings. It was Rusin - who did get the W against us in a start last year - that took the brunt of the damage, being charged with nine runs on ten hits, including four homers, in just 2.2 innings.
On the Diamondbacks' side, Brandon McCarthy started off very well, striking out five through the first three innings, and holding Chicago to one hit over that time. However, as is perhaps his wont, he wobbled in one inning: here, the fourth, where he allowed three hits to the first four batters, leading to a pair of earned runs, before dialing up a big double-play to escape the frame. His final line was still pretty solid: six innings, three runs allowed on six hits and a walk, with half a dozen strikeouts. It's his last warm-up, and Kirk Gibson announced before the game that he'll start Monday's home opener against the San Francisco Giants.
Oliver Perez and Will Harris combined for a scoreless seventh, but David Hernandez let the Cubs pull one back in the eighth, allowing a solo home-run, making it a nine-run game at the time. J.J. Putz finished things off with a hitless ninth, walking one batter but striking out two. Despite the 27 combined hits and 18 runs, it was still completed in a brisk 2:47 minutes, while a sell-out crowd of 12,755 watched at Salt River Fields. Tomorrow, it's the last split-squad day of spring, half the roster hitting the road to take on the Reds, while the balance stays in Scottsdale to face the Indians.