After tying three of their past four Cactus League games, the Los Angeles Dodgers narrowly avoided another deadlock today, losing 4-3 to the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park in Mesa.
Zack Greinke, in his first start of the spring, allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in two innings. Phenom prospect Julio Urias followed and was scheduled for two innings, but he was pulled after one-third of an inning, allowing one run on three hits and 26 total pitches. Urias left the game with two runners on base, but fellow lefty David Huff escaped the inning with no further damage.
The Dodgers tied the game in the fourth on the strength of three infield singles, some clever baserunning, and one big hit. Yasiel Puig led off the inning with an infield single up the middle. Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro made a great play on the ball, fielding it, spinning, and making a strong throw to first, but Puig hustled out of the box and just beat the throw. After a hard lineout by catcher Yasmani Grandal, infield singles by Howie Kendrick and Scott Van Slyke loaded the bases. Van Slyke’s single should have resulted in at least one out, but Puig juked and jived to avoid the tag from third baseman Mike Olt. Justin Turner followed with a two-run ground-rule double, and Van Slyke scored on an RBI groundout by Joc Pederson.
The highlight of the game for the Dodgers was Puig, who, in addition to his solid baserunning in that three-run third inning, made three important plays on defense. In the second inning, the Cubs loaded the bases against Greinke on two walks and a single. With two outs, former Dodger Mike Baxter hit a line drive to the right-center field gap. Had the ball reached the wall, Baxter would have had a three-run double, but Puig cut the ball off and limited the damage to a two-run single.
In the third inning, on the final pitch Urias threw, Chris Coghlan hit a sacrifice fly to Puig in center with the bases loaded. Puig wisely chose not to try to throw out Anthony Rizzo at home, made a strong throw to third to keep Castro at second base. An infield single moved Castro to third, but he was stranded there.
The third Puig gem is the one you will see on the highlights. With two outs and nobody on base, Rizzo hit a towering fly ball to the wall in right-center. Huff, the pitcher, appeared to think the ball was a home run, as he turned to the home plate umpire to request a new ball. But Puig never gave up on the ball, tracking it all the way and making the catch just as he crashed into the wall. He stayed on the ground briefly, but jogged off the field under his own power and remained in the game.
Greinke was not spectacular, but he said he felt good about his first start. He has been tinkering with his slider, trying to get it to be a little more effective than it was last year, and he said it was not working for him today. “I’m trying to figure out if I’m going to keep trying to make it better, or just go back to last year’s slider, because today was pretty bad.”
Although he missed his spots with his fastball by an inch or two at times today, Greinke said his fastball and changeup both worked well for him. “Those two I would say were a definite positive, and the slider was a slight negative.”
When asked if he would be ready for the beginning of the season, Greinke said he wasn’t sure because he doesn’t pay much attention to how much longer is left in Spring Training. “If [I have] five more starts, I’ll definitely be ready. If it’s four more, I should be ready.”