Friday, April 22

4-22-05 -- Thoughts from JT - Cubs 0, Cardinals 4

This was, in the scheme of things, a difficult game to watch. The two teams dourly batted and pitched their way through 7 1/2 Innings of a 1-0 game until the Cubs' bullpen gave the Cardinals the cushion they needed to breathe easier.

There are more negatives than positives today.

++ ESPN showing the game
This is definitely one of those "clutching at straws" positives that I've struggled to find in summarizing this game. Steve Stone, along with the regular ESPN cast, made this game a lot more entertaining with a higher-than-average amount of insightful, "technical" commentary - stats about specific situations, batters' preferences and scouting reports - and it made the game a lot more tolerable. Sorry Ron Santo, today I bedded with a different mistress.

++ Dempster
He started rather shakily, but ended up posting another commanding and promising performance for the starting rotation. 6 IP, 4 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K - he managed to get himself out of any difficult situations his walks put him in, and when he left the game for a pinch-hitter in the 7th, he had done just enough to keep the Cubs in the game and with plenty of chances to win.

-- Dusty's Decisions
There were no real indications or reasons offered for that 8th Inning switch, pulling Michael Wuertz in favour of Mike Remlinger to face a slow and slumping Larry Walker. Wuertz, who needed only 19 pitches to get through 1 1/3 Innings of hitless ball, only to be pulled for the veteran. What Stone mentioned right before the switch made the pitching change seem all the more baffling - Walker, despite his poor season to date, was batting roughly .450 with a couple of HRs against Remlinger in his career. The substitution made, and sure enough, Walker belted the 4th pitch over the wall in deep right center field. 4 pitches, 0 outs, 1 ER for Remlinger.

In came Fox, who proceeded to sweat his way through the rest of the inning, allowing a Pujols double off the deep right field wall, and then a 3-2 pitch to Rolen that he dispatched with ease over the left field wall. Cardinals 4, Cubs 0.

I really have no idea why Wuertz was pulled. He looked comfortable, controlled, and more importantly, unthreatening to the scorer's box. If I can find anything in the papers this morning or online, I'll post it later. I'm sure Dusty has his reasons.

-- Blind Bats
Carpenter pitched well for the win, and yet the Cubs had several opportunities to take control. In the 6th Inning, after a Catcher's Interference call on young Yadier Molina, a Carpenter wild pitch in the dirt allowed Neifi Perez to advance to 3rd and Patterson to 2nd. 1 out, runners in scoring position. Aramis Ramirez struck out swinging, and Burnitz flied out to Edmonds in center field. This was really the breaking point - it couldn't have been set up any better.

In the 5th Inning, with Derrek Lee on 3rd and Hollandworth on 1st with 1 out, Blanco grounded out weakly, forcing out Lee at home. 2 outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, and not surprisingly, Dempster couldn't force in a run.

In the 1st Inning, two singles put Perez at 2nd and Patterson at 1st with 1 out. Ramirez then grounded into the double play to end the inning.

Despite a solid pitching performance, there were 3 clear moments where the Cubs could have blown apart the box score, and for whatever reason, on this day they couldn't get it done.


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Jim said...

And why did Dusty bat D. Lee, the hottest hitter on the team, maybe the league, in the sixth spot? It's not as if he hadn't batted him third and fourth in other games. Lee had a couple of solid hits during the game that could have turned the whole thing around if he had those with more runners in scoring position.

Dusty's rep as a manager is based on the fact that the players love him, not on any particular brilliance at managing. His strongest skills lie in the area of building confidence in the bench and new guys coming to the team. He's a good people person, but not the best decision maker on the bench.

That's really the Cardinal's edge. The strongest component of their team sits on the bench full-time. Love him or hate him, Tony L. is probably one of the best managers of all time.

At 2:03 AM, Blogger JT said...

Again I would agree. Tony LaRussa seems to have a better handle on his players and their capabilities. Bringing Lee to the plate at no.6 means he is likely up with outs on the board and probably no runners on the bases, which is the worst thing for any hot hitter. Given the injury bug, we might see teams pitching around him a little more, and it's incumbent upon guys like Hollandsworth, Burnitz and Patterson to give the offense a bit more teeth.

The decision to bring Remlinger in against Walker, against whom he was batting .450 lifetime with a couple of HRs, might not ever be explained. Surely Dusty had some knowledge of historical stats like that. It is mind-boggling, and it showed as those HRs in the 8th put the game squarely out of reach (Perhaps Barrett could have made an impact with runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs in the 9th, but he chose to ogle the strike 3 right down the middle instead of swinging that pine sitting on his shoulder).

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I've heard Dusty say in the past that he doesn't trust statistics all of the time. I also got the impression that he likes to fly by the seat of his pants, as the pilots say. I think he just had a feeling that it might work, that Remlinger would step up due to the faith that was being shown in him. Might have worked except that Dusty had no control over the Cardinals' batter.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger JT said...

It says a lot for faith when he mentioned today at some point in an interview that he was going to try different relievers in the closer spot. Chad Fox pulled it today (not sure if he actually got the save), but he did pitch the 9th. Of course, this could just be Santo/Hughes on WGN radio trying to find something to talk about, so I don't know.

As far as faith in Remlinger, do you think there was a need for that switch? Wuertz was pitching lights-out, and all of a sudden a pitching change?

Who's to say, I just like having stuff to talk about regarding our beloved Cubbies.

Oh, and I know it hasn't been posted yet, but how about Neifi Perez? What a great example of someone stepping up to the task! (And Burnitz too.. I take back every bad word I've said about Jeromy, for he too is finding his comfort zone)


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