Mather helps give Cubs split with Rangers
Solo homer in ninth breaks tie; Volstad throws four frames
LAS VEGAS -- Cubs outfielder Joe Mather hit a one-out home run in the top of the ninth inning off of Rangers reliever Sean Green to give his team a 3-2 victory at Cashman Field Sunday.The Cubs' win, giving them a split of the two-game series with the Rangers in Las Vegas, came on a cold windy afternoon marked by excellent starting pitching on both sides. Matt Harrison became the first Rangers pitcher to go five innings, allowing one run on one hit, a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 58 pitches, including 40 for strikes. Harrison has a 1.80 ERA and opponents are hitting .139 (5-for-36) off him. "So far so good," Harrison said. "I just hope I keep doing the same things that I have been doing, pounding the strike zone and keeping the ball down. I was able to do that today and get them to swing at my offspeed stuff. Being aggressive in the zone was my focus today." The Cubs' only run off him came in the fourth. Dave Sappelt led off with a double, went to third on Blake DeWitt's grounder and scored on Alfonso Soriano's sacrifice fly. Soriano has eight RBIs to lead the Cubs this spring. Mark Hamburger followed Harrison with three innings in relief, allowing one unearned run. Chris Volstad boosted his chances for winning a spot in the Cubs' rotation by holding the Rangers to one run in four innings. He allowed three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three.
"I try not to think about too many things and keep it simple," Volstad said. "I feel like this is what I should be able to do time and time again. Surprised? No. Happy with the way things are going? Definitely."
He also feels more confident.
"Maybe it's the mental approach of attacking on the mound, experience -- all those things combined," Volstad said. "You could wrap it up into another year of learning."
The Rangers' run off him came in the third inning on a double by second baseman Leury Garcia and a single by Julio Borbon. That ended a streak of eight scoreless innings for Volstad.Up next for Cubs: Travis Wood will try to slow things down on Monday when the lefty makes his second start and third spring appearance, facing the Mariners in Peoria. Wood has struggled so far, and served up six runs on three hits and two walks over one-third of an inning in his last outing. The lefty is a candidate for one of the two openings in the rotation. The game will be broadcast live on a free exclusive cubs.com audio webcast at 3:05 p.m. CT.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.