Only a few Cubs regulars traveled to Surprise, Arizona for the nightcap of a split-squad doubleheader against the Royals Tuesday. Albert Almora, Addison Russell, David Bote, and Victor Caratini were the only Cubs in the lineup who saw significant time with the big league team last season. Of those, only Almora figures to have any chance of factoring into the opening day starting lineup, and that’s far from a sure thing.
Young right-hander Thomas Hatch got the start for the Cubs, and it didn’t go well. After retiring the first two batters of the game, the Royals tagged Hatch for three runs in the 1st, then hung a five-spot on him in the 2nd. He exited the game after two innings, charged with seven earned runs. He also walked two and hit a batter. This shouldn’t be of great concern since Hatch figures to be riding busses in the Southern League when the Cubs break camp.
Despite the huge 8-0 hole the Cubs dug after two innings, they didn’t quit. Trailing 8-5 heading into the 9th, they scratched a run across on a Royals throwing error, and then brought the winning run to the plate. But Wily Peralta was able to retire Zach Short and Yasiel Balaguert for the final two outs of the game, preserving the Royals win. (Box score)
Why the Cubs lost
The Cubs actually faired well considering they fielded a team consisting largely of players who won’t see much time at the Major League level this season. Meanwhile, the Royals lineup featured a decidedly more big league-looking squad. It included familiar faces like Jorge Soler and longtime former division rival Billy Hamilton.
Two of the game’s big blows came courtesy of Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. In the 1st inning, Hearn delivered a two-RBI double to plate the game’s first runs. He followed that up with a three-run home run in the 2nd.
Stats that Matter
- Mark Zagunis continues to have a big spring for the Cubs. He came into the game with a 1.154 OPS, before belting his fourth home run of the spring in the 4th inning off of Royals starter Jakob Junis.
- Following Hatch’s departure, a parade of relievers came in and pitched well. Allen Webster, Randy Rosario and Dillon Maples were among the six relievers each to threw scoreless frames as they continue to jockey for bullpen position.
- Victor Caratini had two hits in the losing effort. He was credited with a triple in 6th on a ball that clanked off of Hamilton’s glove up against the center field wall.
This was a ‘B squad’ game if there ever was one. Despite the outcome, the scrappiness of the young players was nice to see. No big news concerning any of the big league players involved in this game. That’s a good thing – following the blister and beanballs that marred the afternoon game.
The Cubs take on the Dodgers Wednesday at 9:05 pm CT. Watch Cole Hamels take the mound on NBC Sports Chicago+ or listen on MLB.com.