Samardzija, Cubbies battle past Giants
MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija made a strong spring debut and the Chicago Cubs scored four unearned runs in the first inning against San Francisco Giants ace Matt Cain, then held on for a 4-3 victory Sunday at HoHoKam Stadium.
Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro, acquired as a free agent during the winter, hit a three-run homer in the first inning after Alfonso Soriano hit a line drive off the right leg of Cain and reached first as the ball caromed away. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt made a throwing error one batter earlier.
“We were a little concerned,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “The knee started to swell a little bit. We were a little cautious with the knee. He wanted to get back out there, but we shut him down.”
Cain, who finished the inning but did not take the mound in the second, said getting hit had nothing to do with giving up the home run, and said he expects to make his next spring start on schedule.
“It should be fine,” said Cain, who has been tabbed by Bochy to make his first career opening-day start for the defending World Series champions. “Just some ice now. Nothing to worry about, I don’t think.
“Maybe I’ve just got to start using my glove more — or actually USING my glove.”
All four runs allowed by Cain were unearned because of a one-out throwing error by first baseman Brandon Belt one play before Soriano’s drive.
“The best thing is that he’s OK,” said Soriano, who also singled to left-center in the third. “That makes me happy.”
Samardzija gave up one run on three hits without a walk in his two innings of work, striking out two.
“I was happy with how things went,” he said. “The no walks and fastball command was important.”
Considered a front-runner for the Cubs’ opening-day start, Samardzija escaped far worse injury than Cain sustained. He ducked and stumbled to avoid by inches Guillermo Quiroz’ drive toward his head in the second inning.
An inning earlier Kensuke Tanaka got Samardzija with a glancing shot on another shot up the middle -shortstop Starlin Castro turned the carom into an out.
“Both of them were about as close as they get,” Samardzija said. “That’s part of the fun. You’ve got to be on your toes, be ready to go. It’s better if you knock it down and get an out like the first time.”
Last week while pitching batting practice to teammates, Samardzija was nearly hit another time when second baseman Darwin Barney hit a one-hop shot back through the box.
“After the second time (Sunday),” Navarro said, “I went out there and asked him where the magnet was.”
Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the World Series MVP, continued his strong hitting from winter ball, going 2 for 3, including a run-scoring double off Cubs closer Carlos Marmol in the third.
Sandoval, who duplicated his postseason MVP effort in the Venezuelan League finals last month, started both of the Giants’ first two spring games (3-for-5, 2 RBIs).
Tigers 5, Phils 5 (tie)
LAKELAND, Fla. — Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander made their spring training debuts Sunday as the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers tied 5-5 in 10 innings.
Both aces allowed a run and struck out two in two innings.
Victor Martinez had a big day at the plate for the Tigers, going 3 for 3 with a home run off Halladay. Martinez, who batted .330 with 102 RBIs for Detroit in 2011, missed last season with a left knee injury. He is batting .571 this spring.
Ryan Howard had two doubles and an RBI for the Phillies, who tied the score in the eighth on a homer by Domonic Brown.
AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera went 0 for 3, dropping his spring average to .111.
Indians 3, Reds 0
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched two scoreless innings in blustery conditions and seven Cleveland pitchers combined on a one-hitter, leading an Indians split squad to a 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Matsuzaka was limited to just 11 starts last season for Boston after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011. He’s trying to win a spot in Cleveland’s rotation this spring.
The Japanese right-hander hit Cincinnati’s Ryan Hanigan with his first pitch, but got a double-play grounder on his second and settled in. Matsuzaka says he feels better now than at any time last season, when he went 1-7 with 8.28 ERA for the Red Sox.
Jason Donald singled in the sixth for Cincinnati’s only hit.
Omir Santos hit a two-run double, and Carlos Moncrief singled in a run for Cleveland.
Marlins 2, Nationals 2, 10 inn.
VIERA, Fla. — Drew Storen’s first chance to put last season’s playoff flop behind him didn’t go so well Sunday.
The Washington Nationals reliever gave up a late lead against the Miami Marlins in a game that was stopped after 10 innings with the score tied 2-all.
Jake Jeffries drove in the tying run for Miami with an RBI groundout in the ninth against Storen.
Bryce Harper had two singles for the Nationals in a game that was delayed 66 minutes by rain. Anthony Rendon gave Washington a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann went three innings, allowing one run on two hits. Miami’s Henderson Alvarez threw two shutout innings, giving up one hit and striking out two.
Mets 7, Astros 7 (tie)
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Matt Harvey worked two innings in his spring debut for New York, giving up two hits including a home run to former Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez, and the Houston Astros scored late in a 7-7 tie Sunday.
Houston starter Bud Norris also pitched two innings, giving up a home run to Jamie Hoffman.
George Springer drove in the tying run in the ninth but the game was called because the Mets’ split squad ran out of pitchers. Much of their team remained in Port St. Lucie to play the University of Michigan.
Jordany Valdespin’s two-run homer gave the Mets a 3-1 lead in the third, and they stretched it to 6-1 in the fourth when Josh Satin drove in two runs with the first of his two doubles.
The Astros tied it with the help of Jason Castro’s two-run homer off Jeremy Hefner.
Orioles 5, Blue Jays (ss) 4
DUNEDIN, Fla. — Spring training results aren’t terribly important to Mark Buehrle. After allowing four straight hits to the Baltimore Orioles in his second inning Sunday, the new Toronto Blue Jays left-hander said he wasn’t disappointed. In fact, everything went according to plan.
Buehrle, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Miami, retired his first four hitters before allowing a single to Lew Ford, a two-run homer by Steve Pearce and singles to Danny Valencia and Taylor Teagarden.
After 1 1-3 innings and 35 pitches, Buehrle was yanked. The Orioles went on to beat a split squad of Blue Jays 5-4.
“It seems I never pitch too good in spring training. My numbers aren’t too good. I don’t care if it’s spring training or during the season, I try to get outs. I don’t like to kid around, even though it doesn’t matter,” Buehrle said.
Buehrle was obtained by the Blue Jays, along with Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, after one season with the Marlins. Now he’s back in the American League, where he spent 12 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.
Two of Buehrle’s outs came on fly balls. One was a strikeout and the other was a grounder, which he prefers.
“When I’m going good, I’m getting a lot of ground balls,” Buehrle said. “If they find holes, that’s part of the game, but fly balls aren’t good. When I’m getting flyouts, that means I’m not down in the zone as much as I’d like. Got some pitches, got some work in, so it’s obviously a good day.”
Reyes played in his first game for his new team, going 1 for 2, and slugger Jose Bautista hit a long two-run homer off Troy Patton in the third inning.
Pirates 9, Braves 2
BRADENTON, Fla. — James McDonald is hardly concerned about the crispness of his fastball or the break on his curveball. And for that matter, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ right-hander isn’t overly focused on controlling an opponent’s running game at the moment.
All McDonald really wants out of spring training is to put the ball where it’s supposed to go following a second half last season when the only place the ball seemed to go was the outfield and beyond.
McDonald took his tentative first steps toward putting the final two months of last year behind him, pitching a pair of scoreless innings Sunday in a 9-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The 28-year-old walked one, struck out one and settled down in the second inning after needing 21 pitches to get through the first. He used just eight pitches to get three outs in the second, working a little faster than he’s used to in an effort to keep his defense involved.
“When you slow the pace of the game up, it slows your defense up,” McDonald said. “If you keep the game going, the pitches come a little faster, guys will be on their toes a little more and I’ll probably be a little better.”
Things certainly couldn’t be much worse than the second half of last year, when he went 3-5 with a 7.52 ERA. The precision that helped him get off to a 10-3 start evaporated as the Pirates found themselves in the clutches of an actual postseason race.
Manager Clint Hurdle believes McDonald is the efficient guy who dazzled at times in the spring and early summer, not the one who limped to the finish.
An offseason that saw McDonald welcome his first child — a baby girl — helped put things in perspective. And with catcher Russell Martin keeping him on schedule, McDonald shook off a first-inning walk to Jason Heyward — who also hit a towering foul ball that traveled well over 400 feet — to get out of trouble.
“When it was up and away or up, I was able to make an adjustment and get it back down in the zone,” McDonald said. “That’s a big thing.”
Clint Barmes went 2 for 2 with a two-run homer for the Pirates. Non-roster invitee Brad Hawpe added a two-run single.
Heyward hit a solo home run for the Braves. Julio Teheran struck out two in two innings but Atlanta fell to 0-3 in Grapefruit League play after the Pirates had their way with the Braves’ relievers.
Teheran and Sean Gilmartin — who pitched two scoreless innings of his own — are in competition for fifth starter spot. Manager Fredi Gonzalez all but called it a draw and said the team plans to send the 22-year-olds out there in tandem at least once more.
The thing that impressed Gonzalez was that neither pitcher had great command but remained effective.
“(Teheran) pitched good and his stuff wasn’t like I saw in the Dominican last time, which was good,” Gonzalez said. “He got through it. Most of the time you’ve got to go out and pitch without your good stuff.”
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