Another beautiful day in the valley of the sun, 73 degrees at first pitch and plenty of sunshine. The Cubs lost to WBC Team Japan 3-2 in a well-pitched exhibition ballgame in front of a surprisingly small crowd of 6,591. I think part of the reason for the less than expected turnout was the fact that until recently it wasn’t known which WBC team would be playing the Cubs.
The Cubs starting lineup was close to the probable opening day lineup except for backup Catcher Paul Bako, possibly Reed Johnson and Mike Fontenot. Big Z was on the mound facing Japan’s 22 year old phenom Yu Darvish. Both pitched well, while the Japanese used a DH, Carlos wanted to get his turns at the plate. Big Z went 4 innings, allowed 3 hits and 2 runs. One of the runs resulted from a passed ball. The rest of the Cubs contingent of pitchers Kevin Gregg, David Patton, Angel Guzman, Neal Cotts and Randy Wells each threw a successful inning with only Patton allowing a run.
Mike Fontenot was 2 for 2 and scored the Cubs first run in the 4th on a Paul Bako base hit. The Cubs other run came when they mounted a little comeback in the 9th on back to back doubles by Jake Fox and So Taguchi, however Micah Hoffpauir and Doug Deeds couldn’t drive in the tying run from 3rd as they both ended up striking out against Kyuji Fujikawa. Derrek Lee drew a walk and hit a double going 1 for 2. Milton Bradley had a hit and then struck out in the 5th, getting a bit agitated with himself, snapping the bat over his knee like a toothpick. (See Video Below) Cubs Kosuke Fukudome playing for Team Japan went 1 for 4, with a flair single to right center driving in Shuichi Murata, Dome played the whole game in Center Field. Big Z wanted to get his at-bats in today and struck out once from each side of the dish. Despite striking out twice, as usual Carlos did some serious battling at the plate.
Before the game Fukudome was visibly excited and happy to see his Cubs teammates. He signed autographs for the fans and was all smiles. This was challenging PA duty, but luckily I had the help of Arizona native Patrick Bellew, who is the Team Japan Press Liaison and speaks fluent Japanese. With Team Japan playing, there was a foreign media throng that overwhelmed the Hohokam pressbox. Interesting to see the sponsors on Team Japan’s uniforms included the McDonald’s ‘M’ on their ballcaps. So Taguchi playing for the Cubs in the late innings appeared to be less than aggressive on a couple pop-ups by his fellow countrymen…I’m not saying he was sandbagging, he just seemed to lack his usual hustle.
During the game Lou Piniella could be seen hanging over the railing of the dugout with his bag of sunflower seeds. I gave a happy birthday shout out to Cubs pitching and 3rd base coaches Larry Rothschild and Mike Quade towards the end of today’s game. The Cubs have a split squad tomorrow with part of the team headed to Tempe to take on the Angels and the rest at Hohokam against the Mariners. Sean Marshall will be getting the start at Hohokam. Talk with you after tomorrow’s game.
If you haven’t seen the new CubsAZ video show, check it out on our home or multimedia page in the large TV/Media Box, where you can find out what Fergie Jenkins, George Foster, and Jon Warden think about the Cubs’ chances this season.