Shortstop prospect knocks solo homer and Valbuena contributes RBI double
PHOENIX -- A top prospect hit his first spring homer, a Minor League loaner drove in the winning runs and the Cubs found their way into the win column.
Javier Baez's second-inning home run provided an early lead and Walter Ibarra's two-run single in the seventh proved the difference in Chicago's 4-2 win over the Brewers on Monday at Maryvale Baseball Park. It was the Cubs' first victory after three losses to begin the spring.
With Starlin Castro sidelined 7-10 days by a strained hamstring, other Cubs shortstops picked up the slack. Ibarra, who joined the team Monday from Minor League camp, snapped a 2-2 tie with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning when he hit his go-ahead single off Milwaukee's Michael Fiers. Five innings earlier, starting shortstop Baez smacked a Marco Estrada fastball over the fence in right-center field to put the Cubs on the board, the first of Baez's two hits. Baez also made a nice running catch in short left field in the first inning.
"Middle-away and up. It was a good pitch to swing at," Estrada said. "I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of everybody. He's strong to go right-center like that. It's impressive."
The Brewers did not have a hit until Ryan Braun doubled off Blake Parker in the fourth inning, and Braun scored on a two-out single by Juan Francisco that tied the game at 1. Parker walked the next two batters to load the bases, but struck out Brewers utility man Elian Herrera to preserve the tie.
Luis Valbuena reclaimed a lead for the Cubs in the next half-inning when he smacked an RBI double off Brewers setup man Brandon Kintzler, but again Braun keyed a scoring rally. He singled and exited in favor of a pinch-runner before Carlos Gomez tied the game again with a double.
Estrada was charged with one run on four hits, with no walks and one strikeout in three innings. It was much better than his outing last week against the A's, when Estrada was "out of whack."
"I felt much better. Rhythm was there and mentally, I felt better," Estrada said. "It's only going to get better as Spring Training gets deeper, so I'm excited. It's exciting going out and actually feeling like you know what you're doing out there."
Cubs starter Eric Jokisch pitched three scoreless, hitless innings, with two walks and one strikeout.
While the new replay system was available for managers, neither team needed to use it.
Cubs Up next: Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will make his first Cactus League start on Tuesday when the Cubs play host to the Athletics at Cubs Park in Mesa. Hendricks was the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, posting a combined 13-4 record and 2.00 ERA in 27 games with Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. The game can be heard on an exclusive webcast on Cubs.com.