Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Game Notes 10: Defeating the Red Menace
Boys and girls, ladies and gents, puppies and kitties, it's good to be back. We'll see how long I can keep it up, but I'm in this thing today. Since I've been out so long, I'll go with the long notes format.
Top of the 1st
It's Mitre vs. Harang today, and it should be interesting to see how many balls fly out of the park for the Cubs, as it's nearly 80 degrees, the wind is blowing out today, and Harang is a homer machine (11 in 76.1 IP between Oakland and Cincinnati last season). By contrast, Mitre is extremely stingy with the longball over his minor league career, giving up only 13 in his last 314.1 minor league innings.
Right away, we see where the tradeoff is when Grudz is on the shelf. As good as Walker is with the bat against right-handers, he just can't get to those grounders that require much lateral movement. I'm not sure Grudz could have made the play either, as the ball was in a funky spot, but I'm fairly sure he would have gotten a glove on it and given himself the chance.
Haven't I seen this before? Mitre on the mound in the first inning, first and third with no one out? Run scores on a wild pitch/passed ball? I hope the rest of his outing mirrors the one in Atlanta.
When I said I wanted this outing to mirror the one in Atlanta I didn't mean the one from last year!
Getting out of that with a mere two runs allowed is great, but it'll only matter if Sergio can settle down and pitch the way he did from the second inning forward in his last start. The Cubs will score today, but obviously, they need to be able to shut the Reds down as well. The thing to notice from this inning, is how the bottom third of the Reds' order is going to be easy pickings today.
Bottom of the 1st
Nice at bat by Patterson. He spits on the first three pitches, then gets a fastball, inner half, just a little above the knee and drives it up the line for a hustle double. I don't need Corey to walk 80 times, I just need him to have at bats like this one.
Bases loaded, one out, and a white-hot A-Ram coming to the dish. Will I regret writing this once the at bat is over? Stay tuned!
No sir, I'm very happy with my choice, as Aramis singles home the Cubs first run of the day, which brings Derrek Lee to the plate in an identical situation. Unfortunately, D-Lee hits into the twin killing to end it. The only ball in the air for the Cubs was Alou's bloop single. The boys will have to do better than that if they want to score the big runs today.
Top of the 2nd
A nice, easy inning for Mitre, and a great illustration of why he has to keep the ball down to succeed. Aaron Harang is obviously lousy at the plate, yet when Mitre got the ball up to him, he was able to hit it hard the other way and nearly get himself a double. It went foul, but if someone who's a bad hitter for a pitcher can make good contact when your stuff is up in the zone, you need to get that ball low.
Bottom of the 2nd
Boy, I like seeing Barrett approaching an at bat like that. He had some turns in Atlanta where he was swinging at nearly everything, especially if it was early, so making Harang throw him a strike looks a lot better. Of course, when he turns a sacrifice bunt into a double play because of his bone-headed baserunning, the good PA becomes less significant.
Top of the 3rd
In case you thought otherwise, there is no reason why anyone should not run on Moises Alou. Sean Casey was only a of couple steps past the third base bag when Mo let the ball go, and he still beat the throw by a mile. Perhaps if Casey was forced to play with crutches it would be advisable to hold him up, but beyond debilitating physical conditions, Cub opponents have no reason
Data point number two in this game for why Todd Walker is a lousy second baseman. It's not very often that you see an infielder dive themselves into worse position to field a ball, but that's exactly what he did, flopping forward just before the ball could go into his glove, and bouncing it off his elbow. Yeech!
Bottom of the 3rd
Now that's redemption. Here I spend two bullet points berating two player's defense, and both men come through in the bottom of the inning, Walker with a single, and Alou with a mammoth homer to drive him in. Next inning, I'll be talking smack about the entire team just to see what happens.
Here come the fireworks, folks. Ramirez ties the game with yet another home run, and it looks like everyone is a lot more comfortable facing Harang the second time through the order. We may be seeing the beginning of some super fun stuff today.
Three run innings where the victimized pitcher strikes out the side don't come along every day, especially with a guy like Harang who just barely strikes out 6 per 9 innings over his career. If the Cubs can make more contact, they can put this thing out of reach in a hurry.
Top of the 4th
Apparently, D'Angelo Jimenez has dug a grove between where the first and second baseman set up, because that's the second time today he's put it in that spot. Get the grounds crew up, we've got some work to do!
How about that! Sergio lets some men get on base, but for the first time today, none of them score. Let's have a few more of those scoreless innings, boys!
Bottom of the 4th
That was quick! I swear, I just went to get a drink and use the restroom, and there's an entire half inning gone. Unfortunately, that's going to happen quite a lot this year.
Top of the 5th
When a pitcher is struggling like Mitre was today, getting five frames with fewer runs than innings pitched is a victory. It wasn't a good performance from Sergio, but it was a gutty one.
Bottom of the 5th
I don't even know where to begin here, so I'm just going to start typing. Corey Patterson needs bunting lessons. I hope Ryan Freel has good insurance. Very smart hustle play by Todd Walker, advancing to second on the super crappy bunt by Patterson, followed closely by an incredibly stupid play, trying to score from second after Sosa flied out to center. That's the second time today the Cubs have made the third out with an ill-timed brain cramp. If that doesn't make you nuts, you're a better person than I am.
Top of the 6th
Mike Wuertz picks up where he left off yesterday, and then some. One more outing like that, and he's printed his ticket to Iowa when Remlinger comes off the DL. Of course, the other candidate for demotion when Kenny Rogers is ready to pitch again, Todd Wellemeyer, didn't help his case to stick around by giving up a double to Ryan Freel, then walking Corky Miller to score the Reds' ninth run. Miller's career line: .238/.323/.394, so you can see why Todd would be careful with him. Guh.
Bottom of the 7th
I've never seen someone bat out of order before, and I'm not sure if I actually did just now. Dusty sure thinks he indicated a double switch to the umpires, but that doesn't seem to be what the men in blue have on their cards, so Ramon Martinez' double is erased from the books, and he'll be the first out of the inning. It's a shame that some of the people in the bleachers can't keep from acting stupid when something doesn't go their way. The situation could be the umpires' fault, but even so, throwing things on the field only makes you a jackass.
That's better. I know it's early, and the Small Sample Size Police are going to knock on my door for even suggesting it, but if the first part of this season is any indication, we're looking at a kid in Aramis Ramirez who has finally figured things out. That'll be a pretty nice return in exchange for Bobby Hill and a pitcher who isn't likely to see the majors.
Bottom of the 8th
While I'm definitely in the camp that says there is no sustainable skill called "clutch," that doesn't mean Todd Hollandsworth hasn't been clutch so far this year. I have no idea what's gotten into him, but I sure hope he's sharing with everyone else.
Today's game has made me wonder, what's the all time record for most "Todds" on one team?
Fast Forward To the End
Sometimes we have to make sacrifices in life, tradeoffs for the greater good. Today, mine was foregoing the ninth inning to spend an hour with my daughter in the hospital. I heard the end of the game on the radio driving down, and while I would have liked to have witnessed it, I came out so far ahead in the deal that it isn't even funny.
But enough of the schmoopie bits. That was one heckuva ballgame, kids, and while I'd question whether the Cubs deserved the win based on their quality of play, part of having a great season is winning some of those games you should have lost. That's what our boys did today, and I'm pleased as I could be.