The Chicago Cubs brought their A-team to Sloan Park on Wednesday night, missing only Javier Baez, who’s busy playing second base for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. At first, that didn’t seem to phase D-backs starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, who looked to be in midseason form through three innings against the 2016 World Series Champions.
He ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning, when left fielder Oswaldo Arcia couldn’t haul in a John Jay fly ball at the wall, resulting in a triple that would become the Cubs’ first run of the game on a Kris Bryant RBI single just two batters later. Anthony Rizzo struck out looking to end the inning, but upon returning to the mound, Walker served up back-to-back solo homers to Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to begin the fourth.
That made it 3-2 Cubs.
“[It was] two sliders that I just hung instead of finishing,” Walker said of the two home runs. “I just got disconnected with my mechanics.”
Despite two more singles in the inning, Walker would strike out the side, bringing his total to eight for the game.
“The slider felt good early,” he said. “I hung the two but we kept with it. I buried one with [Miguel] Montero and he swung and missed.”
Walker said he’d been working on the slider for a few years in Spring Training and was excited to bring it into his arsenal for 2017.
His final line in four innings pitched included seven hits, three runs (all earned), eight strikeouts and a fastball that consistently topped out at 95 mph. He gave way to Tom Wilhelmsen, a Spring Training invitee attempting to pitch his way onto the 25-man roster.
The D-backs got on the board first in the second inning. Designated hitter Ketel Marte shot a Kyle Hendricks pitch down the left field line that drove in a pair. It could have been three RBIs for the newcomer, but Jeff Mathis was thrown out at home to end the inning.
Those would be the only runs surrendered by Hendricks, who pitched four innings, struck out five and gave up five hits. He was replaced by offseason acquisition Wade Davis.
The D-backs would strike again in the 7th inning against reliever Carl Edwards Jr. Ildemaro Vargas ripped a single into left field and two runs came around to score, one of which was due to an error by Kyle Schwarber in left field. The next inning, Arcia smashed a homer onto the berm in right-center field, giving the Snakes a 5-3 lead.
Another run would have come around to score in the 8th, but catcher Josh Thole appeared to injure his hamstring on the basepaths while avoiding a line drive between first and second. A force out was made at second while Thole attempted to crawl to safety, and he was subsequently helped off the field by a coach and a trainer, careful to put much weight on his left leg.
Domingo Leyba and Carlos Rivero picked up RBIs in the 9th, and that would be plenty for the D-backs. Yuhei Nakaushiro took to the mound and closed out out the Cubbies in the 9th, finishing up the 7-3 win.
–An MRI on outfielder Yasmany Tomas revealed a small oblique strain. He has no timetable as of yet for return. Manager Torey Lovullo said he’ll be out “for several days” and has yet to determine whether Tomas will be available for Opening Day.
–According to Lovullo, the “contingency plan” to compensate for the loss of Tomas will be a rotation of Gregor Blanco, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Reymond Fuentes, Chris Herrmann and Jason Pridie (who started tonight in RF) but not Chris Owings, as he’s still in competition for the SS job. However, Lovullo says Owings will get a “sprinkle of right field” time. Oswaldo Arcia started in left field Wednesday.
–Kevin Jepsen is dealing with some lower half issues. He “sat out a turn” as Lovullo said, missing a scheduled in-game inning to work on lower-body strength.
–The Cubs sold out Sloan Park once again with 15,404 in attendance, considered a sell-out, but did not crack the top-10 for attended games.
–The D-backs will head to Maryvale on Thursday to face the Milwaukee Brewers. Robbie Ray will take the mound against Matt Garza at 1:05 p.m..
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