Bellinger's homer not enough as Cubs fall to D-backs
Rick Scuteri - USA Today Sports

Bellinger's homer not enough as Cubs fall to D-backs

by - Senior Writer -

MESA - Don't look now, but we are rapidly approaching the start of the regular season and are at the halfway point of spring training. That means in just 14 days, the games will finally count, and the MLB regular season will be underway.

Once you get to this point in spring training, you start to see more of what the opening-day roster will look like as more regular at-bats start coming into play. Lately, those regular at-bats haven't translated into much offense as the Cubs have gone into a bit of a funk. That is not what you want this late in spring, especially when you are looking for a fast start out of the gate.

With Madison Bumgarner on the bump, the Cubs had their chances early, but couldn't push anything across the Cody Bellinger homer was it for their offense in a 3-1 loss. Drew Smyly opposed Bumgarner, and despite making his best start of the spring, it wasn't enough. Smyly has been vocal about the pitch clock and his struggles to adjust to it.

However, he finally seemed to be in the groove he was hoping for on Thursday as he struck out four in 4 1/3 inning and allowed three hits. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a two-run shot to give the Diamondbacks the lead for good, and they never looked back. Coming off his worst year as a pro, Bumgarner knows he has a ton of pressure on him, and the Cubs put the pressure on him early.

After a quick inning in the first, the Chicago offense grinded out at-bats against the left-hander, with Eric Hosmer and Yan Gomes working one-out walks. A Patrick Wisdom single was sandwiched between those walks as the Cubs loaded the bases with one out. This was by far their best scoring chance of the day, but the Cubs came up empty, with Zach McCallister getting out of the jam.

It wasn't until the fourth inning when someone was able to break through, and that someone was Arizona. With Smyly cruising along and retiring the first two in the inning, Phillip Evans extended the inning as he ripped a double to right. That was followed up by the big swing of the day, with Caleb Roberts taking Smyly deep for the game-winning hit as the Diamondbacks jumped in front 2-0.

Unlike the regular season, when you are removed from a game, you can reenter during the spring, which Bumgarner did. Once he did, he looked like an entirely different pitcher as he continued to keep the Cubs off the board through four. Moving to fifth, you had the Diamondbacks threatening again as Smyly was removed from the game in favor of Brad Boxberger.

Boxberger retired the first hitter he faced, but then allowed a Channy Ortiz single and the Corbin Caroll walk to set Arizona up. Boxberger was able to pitch around that jam as the Cubs remained within striking distance. With Bumgarner out of the game for a second time, but this time for good, it was up to the Cubs offense to get things going, and they tried to do that in the sixth.

With two outs in the sixth, Bellinger came through for his second homer as he took Brandon Pfaadt deep to right center field to cut the deficit in half to 2-1. At the time, no one knew that would be all the offense the Cubs would have as they were sensing more would be on the way. Scoreless frames from Michael Fulmer and Keegan Thompson kept the Diamondbacks off balance, while Wisdom led off the seventh with a double as his great spring continues.

To make things more interesting, Wisdom would advance to third a few moments later as an errant pickoff throw by Pfaadt allowed him to advance 90 feet. Needing, at worst, a fly ball to tie things up, the Cubs continued to squander their great chances as three straight outs wasted another excellent scoring chance.

That opportunity would come back to bite them in the end as Carroll picked up a one-out double off of Brandon Hughes in the eighth and then came around to score on the Gavin Conticello single to make things 3-1. Hughes has struggled in his past few outings, but this is his first spring with the club, and pitching in Arizona is not all that fun.

Still trailing by two and down to their final out in the ninth, Levi Jordan kept things interesting as his double brought the tying run to the plate. That man was Zach McKinstry, who made solid contact, but lined out to the left fielder to end the game as Arizona picked up the 3-1 win. The Cubs had six hits in the ball game, with Wisdom leading the way with two. He is now hitting .368 for the spring and looks pretty comfortable at the plate.

As a staff, the Cubs allowed six hits with eight punchouts, but when you don't score runs pitching won't matter. Chicago returns to the diamond on Friday for split squad action as they will take on the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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