Mesa – The Chicago Cubs took the field with some serious pep in their step behind one of their best pitchers on Tuesday afternoon in Arizona, but they left that field with their heads hanging as they were trounced 13-0 by the Colorado Rockies.
That pitcher, Travis Wood, surrendered five runs and scattered nine hits in just 2 2/3rd innings of work, and he never really looked to be in command of his stuff all day long. Rockies hitters, notably Nolan Arenado, were all over Wood in this game, squaring up every pitch and rocking them all over Cubs Park as the Cubs watched helplessly.
Perhaps most symbolic of the chaos that reigned in the game was the first inning mistake by Gold Glove winning infielder Darwin Barney. No, Barney has not played much shortstop in his career, but that doesn’t explain away the mistake he made. On a ground ball up the middle, Barney made a nice diving stop. Instead of just eating the ball however, Barney instead tried to throw out Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson at third base. Reacting quickly to the play, Dickerson took off for home plate, and the throw from Luis Valbuena to Wellington Castillo was late, and the run scored to make it a 1-0 game early on.
Normally, Barney doesn’t make mistakes, as his Gold Glove and long errorless streak in his career can attest to, but this one was a big blunder that cost the Cubs any shot of establishing momentum early in the game. The thing that really stood out about the ensuing performance of Barney in the game was that he continued to press on despite the early mistake, and he seemed to actually get better as the game wore on.
For example, in the top of the third inning Barney got a chance for a matter of redemption against Dickerson. On a chopper through the infield, Barney made a great read on the ball, charged it, and in one fluid motion scooped up the ball and fired a strike to Anthony Rizzo at first base to barely retire Dickerson. It was a quick play that most shortstops in the league would have made, but despite potentially having to deal with an itchy trigger finger after making a silly mistake early in the game, Barney trusted his instincts and his skills, and they paid off in a big way.
Barney also looked really good at the plate in the game. In three plate appearances, Barney reached base all three times, including a single in the bottom of the third inning that gave the Cubs runners at 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Junior Lake ended up grounding into a double play, and Nate Schierholtz popped out to the third baseman to end any potential rally, however.
Barney also walked to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning with the Cubs down 13 runs, but once again, he was kept off the scoreboard. He did advance to third on a single by Albert Almora and a fielder’s choice, but he was stranded when Ryan Roberts grounded out meekly to second base.
In spite of all the nonsense that surrounded the team in this game, Barney’s perseverance showed why he still has a place on this Cubs roster. No, he doesn’t hit for a high average, and no, he really isn’t projected to do much better this season (.250/.294/.344 projected slash stats, per Baseball Prospectus), but even with those things in mind, Barney still brings something to the table as a player, and he proved that on Tuesday.