Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Monday, May 03, 2004
Game Notes 25: Splitsville
I didn't feel like trying to put together a cohesive piece with an actual through-line, so in my fit of laziness I bring you my in game notes.
Nice play by Maddux to get the first out of the game against Tony Womack. He's always so prepared to field his position, and this was no exception, as he needed all six inches of his vertical leap to snag Womack's line drive up the middle. After some of the pitcher defense we got to watch last year, this is certainly a breath of fresh air.
Speed kills. Especially when it comes in the package of a 38 year-old pitcher. No one paid Greg Maddux any mind as he stood at first base in the top of the third, and he took advantage by swiping second, then advancing to third on Jason Marquis' wild pitch.
How much ground did Maddux cover before the pitch was thrown? Well, let's just say I haven't seen a jump that big since I was last in Calaveras County. Seriously, if you ignore a runner that much, you'd best hope they don't have any legs, because that's the only way they won't be standing at second later. Get it?! Standing! Ha!
Thank you, Chicago! Tip your waitresses! Try the veal! I'll be here all week!
It's just the bottom of the fifth as I type this portion of the post, so I don't know what the final outcome will be, but if nothing else good happens today, I'll be pleased that
at least one Cub pitcher has made Tony Womack look like...well...Tony Womack.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Mike Matheny certainly doesn't look like himself today, going 2 for 2 so far, with a double, and scoring the only run of the game for the Cardinals through five. Strangely enough, he was only 2 of 15 with two singles and no walks and a strikeout against Maddux up until today's contest.
I don't remember the last time I saw Jim Edmonds completely misplay a ball, but he did just that on what turned into a ground rule double for Sammy Sosa. With the Cubs already taking a two run lead on Todd Walker's two run bomb earlier in the inning, this ball which should have been an out could be a huge play.
In fact, this game is slowly being decided by the mental and physical mistakes made by the Cardinals, two of them from Marquis. First, totally ignoring Greg Maddux, allowing him to be in scoring position when Todd Walker came to the plate in the third. Second, not letting Scott Rolen get the ball on Maddux' infield squib in the sixth.
The play by Edmonds does not come home to roost, but the point about Cardinal mistakes still stands. If Marquis doesn't make his mental errors, at worst, Todd Walker has hit a solo shot, and the game is tied at one. As I've watched the Cubs make any number of bone-headed plays on the basepaths in this series, there's a little smile in my heart as I watch the Redbirds burn themselves for a change.
Sammy made a very nice play on a ball from Scott Rolen, diving forward to get the ball and the out. Of course, it wouldn't have looked as good if he had any range, but we won't mention that. Oh, I did already? Well, poop.
Maddux is starting to miss his spots, the Cardinals are making him pay, and as a result, Glendon Rusch is getting up in the pen. If there's one thing Rusch does well, its keep the ball in the zone, so if he does come into the game, we're unlikely to see a replay of the previous bullpen nightmares in the series. That doesn't mean St. Louis won't score four runs on him, they'll just be on base hits rather than walks.
The professor just got out of the inning with only an Albert Pujols solo blast to show for it, but as his turn at bat comes up in the top of the seventh, I think we've seen the last of him for the day. It was another nice, if unspectacular outing, and it's good to see a return to decent work after a less than impressive start.
And just to make me look stupid, Mad Dog comes up to bunt after Paul Bako leads the inning off with a double.
Before things go south, let me note that the Cubs, despite a relative lack of runs on the board, have done a nice job of handling Marquis today. Through six, the team was seeing 4.4 pitches per at bat, which if it holds up, will be the second most they've seen all year. They've hit the ball hard a lot, if at people, and gotten into some pretty decent counts. This is the sort of thing I like to see, and as I've said before, I can excuse a lack of results if the approach is right, and that's what seems to be happening today.
Okay, while I understand the theory behind the contact play, have the Cubs managed to score on it once this year? If so, I sure don't recall. All that comes to mind for me is a series of weak grounders followed by a man being thrown out at the dish. You'd hope that a lesson would be learned at some point, but...oh yeah...Dusty's our manager. Never mind.
Now, that's what we signed Derrek Lee for. The man might spell his first name wrong, but he can sure put a charge in a ball. We're getting ever closer to the time of year when Lee starts to turn it on. It would be reading too much into it to say we're seeing the start of that yearly ramp-up, but even assuming the big push hasn't begun, we've definitely been treated to a glimpse of what we can expect. Buckle up, Cub fans, because when Rodan gets rolling, he's going to be a kick to watch.
This isn't good for my blood pressure. Why Francis Beltran would be given the opportunity to act as the Cardinals' personal launching pad, I'll never know. If Dusty's concerned about overusing the more capable of his pensman, why not Todd Wellemeyer or Glendon Rusch? Beltran has been more flammable than a river of gasoline running through a match factory, and I can swear I saw some flint bats in the St. Louis dugout. If you need me, I'll be under the bed in a hazmat suit.
Mmmmmmmm, insurance runs. Thanks, Sammy. These are particularly useful when your closer looks less than his best. This is where having LaTroy Hawkins not being your capital 'C' closer becomes extra cool, because if JoBo starts to do his Calvin Schiraldi imitation, you've still got your best reliever waiting for the call. I'd hate for it to come to that, but it's comforting to know the option is there.
That does it, folks. If you tell me going in that you'll guarantee a split, I take the deal, no questions asked. It was nice to see at least one of these games not turn into a Maalox ad, and extra nice to see it turn out in the Cubs' favor. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this now, and I suggest you do the same.