Z Tossed, Freel Hurt, Cubs Win
An eventful afternoon at Wrigley as the Cubs take their first series in two weeks and climb back over the .500 mark.
Why The Cubs Won: It took eight innings to get there, but the Cubs offense put up five runs and Zambrano pitched mostly well for his 6.1 IP before he got tossed. The bullpen managed to go 2.2 IP without giving up a run as well.
In the first, after a Theriot one-out single, Bradley lined a triple down the right field line to put him over the Mendoza line briefly... finishing the day 1 for 3 and right at the .200 mark for the first time this season. After Derrek Lee walked, Reed Johnson hit into a sure double play, but with defensive wonders Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez resting, Delwyn Young botched the double play turn and bounced one into the dugout to score the Cubs second run of the inning.
The Pirates scored their first run with a two-out single in the fourth and things remained quiet until the top of the 7th. Nyjer Morgan led-off the inning with a single down the left field line that he was probably going to try and stretch for a double. Alfonso Soriano whiffed at the ball and it bounced up against the wall just past the bullpen and Morgan cruised into third. Electing to keep the infield back and conceding the run, Zambrano got a quick pop-out for the first out and then the Cubs brought in the infield to try and preserve the lead. Z bounced a breaking ball in the dirt that ricocheted towards the Cubs dugout on the third base side. Morgan doesn't have much going for him besides his speed so he put it to use and took off towards home plate on a ball that most wouldn't dare try and score on. Soto pounced and delivered the throw to Zambrano at the plate to beat Morgan. Z blocked the plate with his foot and put the tag down and it looked like he might have had him but the umpire called him safe. Replays showed that Morgan just snuck his left hand in before the tag got down.
Z went ballistic (edited video here) and in the middle of the argument, the umpire leaned in with his left shoulder pressing against Z's right shoulder. Z pushed back with his right shoulder to get the ump off of him and was quickly bounced from the game for making contact with an ump even though the ump initiated the contact. Z then put on a show that would make Lou proud, ejecting the umpire himself, tossing a baseball into left field, throwing his glove into the dugout and taking a baseball bat to the Gatorade machine. It'll certainly warrant him a six-game suspension and a missed start.
Guzman and Marmol came in to hold the tie including a nice catch up against the center field wall by Reed Johnson. Then with one out in the eight, Johnson lined a home run to left field for the winning run. The Cubs tacked on two more including a double by switch-hitter Andres Blanco and a one-hop shot off the wall from Jake Fox. Kevin Gregg came in for the three-run save and promptly walked the leadoff man and then got behind Morgan. Morgan ripped a ball to deep right just past the well that Bradley caught up to and Freddy Sanchez curiously was standing at third base and was easily doubled off to erase any real 9th inning threat. Gregg though managed to walk another batter before finally striking out Nate McLouth to end the game.
Armchair Managing: In the bottom of the eight, the Pirates bring in Jessie Chavez and he gets Derrek Lee out. Reed Johnson is due up and you would think that it would be time to bring in Kosuke Fukudome as a pinch-hitter. Lou kept in Reed though and he rewarded the gesture of faith with the game-winning home run. I would have probably gone with Fukudome there, but then you have to figure that John Russell would have countered with a lefty and Lou would have just burned a pinch-hitter for no real good reason.
The Curious Case of Andres Blanco: In his first at-bat versus lefty Zach Duke, the switch-hitting Blanco batted right-handed and grounded out back to Duke. In his second at-bat with a man on first, he batted lefty versus Duke and flied out to right. In his third at-bat versus Duke, he batted lefty again and flied out to right again. Then in the bottom of the eighth, lefty Sean Burnett came in to face Mike Fontenot and then Blanco and Blanco stayed with the left side and doubled in a crucial insurance run. Why the switch-hitting hijinx? I have no idea. My only thought that Duke is more of a fastball/change-up pitcher with a weaker breaking ball and sort of rule of thumb is that left-handed pitchers try to avoid throwing left-handed hitters change-ups as it usually ends up in the lefties happy zone which is low and inside.
Dr. Hecht Could Pick-Up Some Extra Work: Ryan Freel left the game after singling to right, rounding the base hard and doing a sort of slide stop before returning to first. He was was replaced the next inning by Fontenot because of a hamstring injury. Don't get too cozy in Iowa, Bobby Scales.
Milton Bradley sort of winced and was doing some stretching after fouling off a pitch in his third at-bat. He ended up flying out to short right which meant Soriano couldn't score from third and whether due to injury or frustration he didn't really run out the play and sort of walked back gingerly to the dugout. He finished the game though so hopefully it was nothing.
The Cubs start a four game set versus the Dodgers tomorrow to finish out the month of May with three lefties scheduled to start for the Dodgers, but no Manny Ramirez's.
Lineup: Fowler, Soler, KB, Rizzo, AJackson. Montero, Castro, Hendricks, Russell
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.