Samardzija goes five strong against Reds
Opening Day starter allows one run on five hits while recording four punchouts
MESA, Ariz. -- Johnny Cueto outdueled Jeff Samardzija in a showdown between two Opening Day starters on Tuesday.
Todd Frazier hit a solo home run to back Cueto and lift the Reds to an 11-1 victory over the Cubs. The game was the Cubs' first night game at HoHoKam Stadium since March 28, 2005, and played in front of 9,388 fans.
Cueto scattered four hits over six scoreless innings, striking out five, while Samardzija gave up five hits over five innings, did not walk a batter, and struck out four. The Reds and Cueto open the season Monday against the Angels, while Samardzija and the Cubs begin in Pittsburgh.
"This is the last hurrah and it's just basically getting his work in and working on what he feels he needs to work on going into Opening Day," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game about Samardzija.
Cueto singled off Samardzija with two outs in the third, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Emmanuel Burriss' double.
"It was definitely a good atmosphere and I've pitched against Johnny since High A down in Sarasota and Daytona," Samardzija said. "We know each other pretty well. He's a heck of a pitcher and had a heck of a year last year."
Cueto also apparently is a good hitter.
"No, he's not -- but he was there," Samardzija said, laughing. "We had some fun with that, and that's the good thing about Johnny is he enjoys playing the game and you can tell. As a fellow baseball player, you appreciate those guys and it makes you compete a little more on the field when they're having fun, too. That's what it's all about."
"I feel really good. I'm ready to roll," Cueto said through a translator. "I felt like I had a good Spring Training. It was good for me to end on a good note going into the season."
Hisanori Takahashi, bidding for the Cubs' final bullpen spot, struck out the side in the sixth. But Frazier connected on the first pitch leading off the seventh for his fifth spring home run.
Welington Castillo of the Cubs singled off Alfredo Simon in the seventh and scored two outs later on pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger's double.
The Reds blew the game wide open in the ninth, turning a one-run game into a blowout with nine runs. Cesar Izturis started the scoring with an RBI double and Corky Miller drove him in with a single. After a run-scoring error, Chris Heisey drove in a run with a single, Jay Bruce plated another with an RBI single of his own and after a Devin Lohman sac fly, Donald Lutz launched a three-run homer.
Up next: The Cubs will play their penultimate game in Arizona on Wednesday night when they travel to Surprise to face the Royals under the lights. Scott Feldman, who will open the series in Atlanta on April 5, will get the start. Among the players scheduled to make the trip are David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney. The game, which begins at 8:10 p.m. CT, will be broadcast on WGN Radio.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.