If an attendance record falls in the desert, and no Cubs are there to see it, does it make a sound? The mark for the largest Cactus League crowd is back in home hands, with 13,444 turning out at the Peoria Sports Complex to see the Diamondbacks take on the Mariners this afternoon. The sellout breaks the previous record, set only yesterday at Camelback between the Cubs and White Sox, of 13,413. Elsewhere, more than twelve thousand other fans also showed up in Scottsdale, for the Giants-Reds contest, i.e. not to watch the Cubs there either. [UPDATE: And tonight's game at Camelback Ranch between the Dodgers and Padres set another new, Cubs-free record: 13,506]
It's shocking, because we've been told, relentlessly, that none of the other franchises who spring train in Arizona are capable of drawing more than, oh, thirty or forty to their games - and as a result, the fans of those fourteen teams should all happily bend over and fork out our cash to keep the Cubs in Arizona. I know this borders on heresy, but could it possibly be the case that the blue-nosed brigade aren't quite as vital to the survival of the Cactus League as they like to think? Or does it just mean Arizona, San Francisco and Los Angeles can demand the fans of all other teams pay up, in order to build new stadia? That is how it works, isn't it?
Anyway, non-attendance details of today's game after the jump. Oh, and since everyone ignored my plea in the Gameday Thread, here it is again, in bold: Looking for someone to do the recap on tomorrow's game, since we won't be home until 7pm or so. Time for the other writers and recappers to get in some warm-up paragraphs...
I see no point in taking longer over the recap than the game took to play, so I'm going to keep this brief. For after yesterday afternoon's Abu-Ghraibesque marathon of agony, today's contest was the equivalent of being prodded with a knitting-needle. It still hurt, but at least it didn't take long. In two minutes short of two hours, Arizona and Seattle combined for only eight hits and four runs - if that happens tomorrow, we're going to end up spending more time a) driving each way to and from Tucson, and b) in the parking-lot, tailgating before the game, than enjoying the actual contest itself.
The Mariners used the long-ball to reach victory, three of their five knocks leaving the Peoria Sports Complex., including two off Diamondbacks' starter, Dan Haren However, our pitching was approximately twenty runs better than yesterday, so that outweighs the nine runs our hitting was worse than yesterday, as far as I'm concerned. Dan Haren pitched pretty well, outside of the two home-runs. He allowed four hits and one walk in five innings of work, striking out a mighty seven batters.
Unfortunately, Felix Hernandez was in even better form the Mariners, two-hitting the Diamondbacks over his five innings, with the only success being singles by Stephen Drew and Tony Abreu. Things didn't get much better for Arizona after he left the game, as three Mariners' relievers one-hit us over the remaining four innings, with another Drew single the only offensive success. I do note Rusty Ryal got plunked in the ninth inning: innocent, or was Cliff Lee - now claiming an injury caused by his collision with Snyder - directing operations from the dugout?
Jordan Norberto and Juan Gutierrez were both impeccable out of our 'pen, each pitching a perfect inning in relief of Haren - neither has allowed a run this spring. Indeed, neither has allowed a hit this spring, in a total of nine combined innings. Gutierrez has allowed one walk, Norberto a couple, plus a hit batter. But on spring form, it's hard to see how Gutierrez will not be at least the set-up man for Chad Qualls, and Norberto is making a far better case than Zach Kroenke (ERA 9.53), or even Clay Zavada (8.44), to be the left-handed specialist.
Eric Byrnes was starting in left-field for Seattle - he had a hit, and is batting .300 this spring as he fights for a roster spot there. He also robbed Drew of extra-bases in the first inning, and spoke, fairly frankly, about his time in Arizona. "The only thing I regret is trying to play through an injury... I tried to set an example and it ended up backfiring on me." By the end, Byrnes accepted the inevitable: "It was really a dead-end situation for me in Arizona,. There wasn't a whole lot of mystery. It [the release] was just a matter of time."
Nearly a couple of hundred comments in the thread, so thanks to those who took part. 'Skins was the clear leader, with NASCARbernet and pygalgia in second and third. Also present: kishi, BattleMoses, luckycc, Zephon, Jargamus Prime, snakecharmer, Rockkstarr12, AJforAZ and IHateSouthBend. And with that, off to make tortilla wraps for the Tucson trip tomorrow. Edwin Jackson is the starter, and Chad Qualls is also scheduled to start. Here's to it going somewhat i.e. a great deal better than his previous outing.