Hands up! The Cubs find new and exciting ways to lose
Hands up if you love to see bizarre, walk-off, game-ending plays that haven't occurred since 2000?
Well, if your hand is currently waving in the air, you're in luck! Michael Barrett's strange miscue in the 9th inning sent the Cubs to their 53rd defeat of the season, 4-3 against the Phillies.
Wuertz watches Rollins make his move.
After a reasonably tepid game, one that saw the Phillies jump out to an uneventful 3-0 lead in the 3rd and one tied by the Cubs in the 7th on a 2-RBI PH Hollandsworth double (a ball Abreu could have caught), this game went right down to the wire. Wagner pitched a perfect top half of the inning, and it fell to Mike "Fuck-up" Remlinger to keep the ship steady as we sailed gently towards extra innings or, as Michael Kay of YES would say, "bonus cantos." Indeed.
In true aging lefty fashion Rem coughed up a lead-off double to the pesky Jimmy Rollins. He induced the groundout from Kenny "Infant" Lofton that moved Rollins across to third, and then intentionally walked the oh-so-dangerous Chase "Dick Dastardly and" Utley and Bobby ".271 BA, 4 RBI since the All-Star Break" Abreu.
Next up, Pat Burrell.
With a full count, Burrell struck out swinging on a toe-height sinker that Barrett couldn't handle. Brilliantly, although probably unbeknownst to that lunkhead PB, he took off casually for first, and even though the bases were loaded, Barrett scrambled to recover the ball and, temporarily blinded by the bright lights of the big East Coast city, or perhaps momentarily distracted by the vendor's call for Cracker Jacks and Dunce Caps, Barrett threw to third. Rollins was 20 feet from home by this point, thinking the ball went further than it did, and instead of holding it, Barrett tossed it to an incredulous E-Ram, allowing Rollins to skip home for ice cream and cookies.
For those historians of you following at home, the official scoring was "P Burrell struck out, J Rollins scored on passed ball", the first time such a thing has happened since 2000.
King Rib pitched reasonably well, going 4 innings (his PH Macias opened the Cubs scoring with a Sac Fly), allowing 5 hits and 2 ER while striking out 1. Why Dusty pulled him so soon, I do not know - perhaps he reckoned that the 3-0 hole he was in might be too big to climb out of? Thankfully, Rusch has been reading LB again and straightened up his act, pitching extremely well against a punchless Phillies order, as did the rest of the bullpen (excluding "The Garbageman" Remlinger).
Rusch, Ohman, Novoa and Wuertz tossed 4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 8 K. Rusch threw 2 innings and struck out 5 batters faced. Five strikeouts! That's positively Santana-esque!
Lawton picked up another hit (he's 3-9 with a run scored in Cubbie blue - Gerut went 2-4 with an RBI in his Pirates deboo), while the more interesting element is Lee's slow (and quiet) decline. While it's unreasonable to expect the man to bat .380 all season long, he's been gently coming back down to Earth, going 8-36, 2B, 2 RBI, 4 R, 10 BB, 7 K in his last 10 games, dropping his average from .367 down to .359. Since the All-Star Break, Lee has suffered slightly less than Abreu: .275 (22-80), 5 HR, 11 RBI, 13 BB, 10 K. His hot streak might be slowly winding down, but there are more than enough sparkplugs in the rest of the lineup to compensate.
However, I'm done with talking about last night. I'm going to take a trip in the old time machine to yesterday, and Hypo's animated reverie about the lineup. I'm also going to take a trip back to my initial stance on this and say that the lineup still sucks. I'm also going to agree with him, but maybe for different reasons. But why? Let me grab my safety goggles and bunsen burner and get to work.
Well, partly inspired by something off-colour on Desipio, the lineup must change. We all know Dusty's fondness of the right-left-right-left lineup, partly because the man loves patterns (especially those Magic Eye posters, you know, the one with the sailboat?), but our lineup really is an opponent's wet dream.
Take a look -
Rod, Tod, this is God
It seems reasonable, but it just doesn't work. Take the St. Louis game last week. Lee went 0-1 with 4 walks. Why? Well, because in situations with runners on bases, the RedBirds were more than happy to give Lee his free pass in exchange for the strikeout Eden that is Jeromy Burnitz (69-44 K-to-BB, BA .268). Pitch around Lee, the chewy, crunchy outer shell, in order to get to the creamy interior. Pitch around E-Ram to get to Walker, or pitch around Walker to get to Neifi (OBP .286, BA .263, more like we expected over the course of a season).
There are too many situations in the batting order for an opposing pitcher to give out free passes like it's the last day of school, or a live taping of "Later with Carson Daly".
Given that the Cubs are less than regular visitors to the bases themselves, it either makes for an easy double play with a guy like Burnitz or Neifi at the plate, or any other kind of out that leaves a runner on base.
Don't let Lee lose out on his possible Triple Crown by giving the other team more reasons to pitch around him than pitch to him. Shoving Ramirez right behind him gives that schmuck on the mound no choice but to suck it up, take it like a man, and pitch to Lee. If you walk him, you should be punished with a Aramis line-drive double or HR instead of a soft Burnitz fly-out to shallow center field. Even looking at the two, you can see why. Burnitz looks like a feather that escaped the pillow, while Aramis looks like the mattress. It's no difficult choice, Dusty.
Similarly with Walker. He's a patient hitter, willing to wait for a hittable pitch (Corey, watch and learn) or quite happy to draw the walk. His OBP of .347 backs up this observation. However, at 6, what good does a walk do when you have Neifi "I hit into as many DPs as I turn in the field" Perez or Michael "I'm being wasted at 8, but JT will address this in a minute" Barrett?
It makes no sense. With Lawton being a good contact hitter and Walker showing such plate discipline, stacking them will have that lump-in-your-throat effect on any opposing pitcher. If Lawton gets on and Walker walks, do you pitch around Lee and give Ramirez a bases-loaded situation, or do you take yr punishment like a man and let Lee have the RBI chance? There's no escape.
With Dusty's lefty-righty-lefty-righty-loosey-goosey approach, he inadvertently ends up with a lineup that goes: strong-weak-strong-weak-strong-weak-strong-weak. It's no wonder we leave so many runners on base.
Barrett, similarly to E-Ram and Walker, is a man who can get on base. A .331 OBP, a .269 BA, and batting .301 in July can attest to that. However, putting him right in front of the pitcher means that he will almost certainly end up out at second or stuck on base when the pitcher fails to get a hit. Yes, Hypo, I know we do have some of the better hitting pitchers in the league right now, but if we're looking to that for help in the run-scoring department, surely there's something we can do elsewhere in the lineup to make things happen.
I would like to see us try this sort of lineup:
When Nomar comes back in one day, this will all change of course, so perhaps:
Other teams stack their lineup: the Cardinals bat their weakest in the lowest spots (J. Gall LF, A. Nunez 3B, M. Mahoney C in 6-7-8 last night), as do most other teams. Dusty is not being clever by "saving" a good batter to sneak them in the 8 spot and hoping no-one notices. He's jeopardizing our run-scoring abilities and opportunities by not letting the good hitters hit in RBI situations.
*DEEP EXHALE AFTER EXTENDED RANT*
Today, another Phillies/Cubs extravaganza.
CHC: RHP Mark Prior • 7-3, 3.26 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 1.13 ERA in 2005 vs. PHI
PHI: RHP Brett Myers • 9-5, 3.21 ERA in 2005 • 0-1, 2.25 ERA in 2005 vs. CHC
Two respective aces take the mound. I'd pick Prior in this one, although Myers is capable of magic too. While striking out 135 in 140 IP this year, he's also coughed up an Eric Milton-esque 18 HRs, and Citizens Bank Park is a hitter's delight. Let's see some long-ball pyrotechnics and a Cubs series win.
These are the important series: with back-to-backs against Philly and the NY Mets squadron, some of our biggest Wild Card rivals, a series win here could turn into an end-of-season tiebreaker. WE NEED TO MAKE IT HAPPEN TODAY AND THIS WEEKEND. I don't think I can say it much more succinctly than that. Maybe Gore Vidal could find a more erudite way of phrasing it, but I doubt it.
Interesting Stat to Back up My Point of the Day:
Derrek Lee has received 2 intentional walks in a single game on 3 separate occasions this season.
Thanks for reading all of this while bored at work, and feel free to comment until yr Cubbie blue in the face.