(Cubbie) Blue Dominates Red Once Again
The Cubs won their third in a row and take the opener versus the Cincinnati Reds on a cold and windy night at Wrigley. Rich Harden and Aramis "Two-out RBI" Ramirez did the heavy lifting with some assistance from Micah Hoffpauir and Chris Dickerson's glove.
Why the Cubs Won: From what I was able to watch, Rich Harden rebounded quite nicely from his last start, needing just 92 pitches to get through six innings while fanning eight. If the Cubs weren't already up by five, you have to think he could have easily come out for the 7th inning. The mid 90's velocity still isn't there as he sat in the 89-92 range (topping out at 93 mph), but he dazzled the Reds with his lethal fastball/change combo. There was a bit of a scare in the fifth when Wily Taveras hit a sharp grounder up the middle off Harden's glove that ricocheted to his right. Harden scampered to try and make the play but his cleats failed him and he landed face down in the grass, groin and shoulder still in tact though.
Aramis came through with the big hits tonight, a two-out RBI single in the fifth - an opportunity that was only afforded to him thanks to Chris Dickerson dropping a Derrek Lee flyball two at-bats earlier. Then in the 6th, he picked up Reed Johnson who struck out with the bases loaded to drive in two more - once again with two outs - which pretty much put the game away. Hoffpauir kept up his torrid start with his first home run of the season in the second and then hit a sac fly to center before curiously being pinch-hit for in the sixth.
Fail: After Harden showed off his speed beating out a well-placed sac bunt attempt to load the bases in the 2nd, Alfonso Soriano struck out and then Kosuke Fukudome flied to center to end the threat. Neal Cotts faced three batters, giving up a hit, another walk and striking out one. Geovany Soto air-mailed a throw to second base that Ryan Theriot made a nice play on to keep from going to the outfield and almost got the swipe tag out on a stolen base attempt by Joey Votto. Replays made it look like he did get Votto on the hand, but the bad throw by Soto made it a tough call for the ump. After Jay Bruce fouled a ball to the Bartman seat where a fan made the catch, Bruce immediately singled in the Reds second run. The crowd, for no good reason, booed the fan who caught the ball although Soriano wasn't going to make the play, and the ball was farther in the stands than in Game 6. A rogue calico cat launched from the bleachers took a swipe at a grounds crew member before getting tossed by its tail. And the MLB.tv delay that is about 10 pitches behind this year.
Armchair Managing: In the 6th, with the bases loaded and Micah Hoffpauir due up, Lou pinch-hits with Reed Johnson when the Dustinator goes to lefty Daniel Herrera. A reasonable move with Johnson's .837 OPS vs. lefties in his career, plus with the Cubs up three at the time, a defensive upgrade. But Hoffpauir already hit a home run plus a deep sac fly to center and has been scorching hot since about 2007. Johnson unfortunately struck out, although Ramirez picked him up with a 2-out, 2-RBI single, but I'm not sure you want to take the bat out of a hot hitter's hands.
Death Pool: Neal Cotts leads the way but 0-for-2009 Joey Gathright is making a strong case for the first player to get dropped from the original 25-man roster.
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.