Let's start at Salt River Fields, however, where the Diamondbacks and White Sox went at each other in a more traditional manner. Brandon McCarthy had a nice and easy, 1-2-3 first inning, and Arizona leaped out in front, scoring three runs in their half and sending eight men to the plate. Eric Chavez had a two-run single, and Eric Chavez drove in the third. However, the lead was short-lived: one out, in fact, as four of the first five batters McCarthy faced in the second reached base, capped off by a two-run homer from a name you might remember. Josh Bell, who hit .173 in 21 games for us last season. .
McCarthy escaped without further damage, and the Diamondbacks tied things up in the third inning, on A.J. Pollock's first home-run of spring. It was the bottom of the fifth which proved the real game-changer, as Arizona enjoyed their best frame of the preseason to date. They batted around and then some, with 11 hitters getting their chance, and scored six times. Adam Eaton had a two-RBI single, but again, it was good to see the team scoring runs with the need for a long-ball, Paul Goldschmidt's RBI double being the only extra base hit among the eight Diamondbacks who reached safely in the inning.
With a score of 10-4, this looked well in hand, but the White Sox had other idea. McCarthy had left after the third, with a line of seven hits and four runs allowed - no walks and one strikeout. Tony Sipp pitched a perfect fourth with a strikeout, and got the W. But Matt Reynolds allowed three runs without retiring a batter, all that damage being done by former local resident, Paul Konerko's three-run homer. A double and RBI single added another, but the Arizona cause was helped by Bell TOOTBLANing. He challenged the Eatonmatic operating in center as he tried to go first to third, and didn't make it.
At this stage, in the middle of the fifth, the sides had piled up 26 hits in total, resulting in 18 runs. However, the normal stream of replacements, for both teams, and on both sides of the game, appeared to favor the pirchers more.. Over the second half of the game, the offense all but dried up: only two more runs were scored the rest of the way, one for each side, on a mere four hits. Didi Gregorius drove in our tally, with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Eric Smith allowed a run in the sixth, but Zeke Spruill pitched two hitless innings, facing the minimum with the help of a double-play, and Rommie Lewis has a clean ninth.
But it was, obviously, a day for the offense. Eaton led the charge, going 4-for-5 with two runs driven in, while right behind him, Aaron Hill got three hits and also an RBI. Jason Kubel reached base safely four times, with a pair of hits and two walks, and Chavez also had a good day, driving in three runs with two hits, and scoring two runs himself. Pollock scored and drove in two, and Hinske enjoyed a multi-hit game of his own - both men also drew a walk. We avoided making any errors, didn't run into any outs as far as I can see, and went 7-for-19 with runners in scoring position. Not too bad.
Tomorrow, it's over to Phoenix Muni to take on Oakland. There's also a B-game on the backfields at Salt River, with Steve Gilbert reporting that those pitching there will include Ian Kennedy, J.J. Putz and the next knuckler, Josh Booty.
Mranwhile, over at Chase, 19,581 people went to a brawl, and a baseball game broke out. Or maybe it just seemed that way. The root cause appears to have been the Mexican team not understanding run-differential is a tournament tiebreaker. Canada, six runs up, dropped down a bunt, with the perfectly legitimate intention of scoring more and improving their standing in a potential tie-breaker scenario. Mexico's third baseman Luis Cruz apparently signaled the pitcher to hit the next batter. That happened. then... Well, I don't use the phrase "all hell broke loose" lightly, but:
Ejection ensued. As for the baseball, the Canadians won 10-3. That means Italy have now qualified for the second-round in Miami, which is pretty damn cool. If America beats Italy tonight, that will set up a winner take all decider between the US and Canada for the other spot. If America wins, they'll take the group, because of having beaten Italy. If Canada wins, Italy takes the group, and Canada goes through as runners-up. If Italy wins tonight, they are group winners. If Canada wins tomorrow, they are runners-up. But in that scenario, if America wins, they, Canada and Mexico will all be 1-2, and the run differential tiebreaker comes into play...