Game 161 – Staggering Toward the Finish Line
Cubs 6, Padres 2
What Went Right
- Matt Garza finally collected his tenth win of the season, finishing the year with a record of 10-10. Garza gave up two runs early, and a couple times throughout the night it looked like he might be done. But instead of sitting down and hoping for at best a no-decision, Garza fought to stick around through seven fairly solid innings–long enough for the Cubs to take the lead and give him the win. Garza’s win-loss record would be much better if the Cubs have given him even a little more run support throughout the season. Tonight looked like another chapter in that same story. Instead they held on to get the win for the Cubs’ current and future ace.
- Starlin Castro led off the game with a hit–the first of two he recorded tonight for an NL-leading 206 on the season. Perhaps more impressive is that he’s now reached safely in 39 consecutive games. Castro’s been one of the few bright spots in a fairly dismal season for the Cubs. Here’s hoping he can pick up next season where he’s leaving off now, and that rest of the lineup around him can follow his lead.
- Aramis Ramirez hit a deep solo home run to center in the top of the fourth inning. I can’t help thinking it’s going to be his last in a Cubs uniform. Often in his tenure with the Cubs, he’s provided the only offensive spark, and tonight it seemed like that might happen again. I’m glad he was able to heal up enough to play tonight, and that he got to round the bases one more time to the loud cheers of Cubs fans.
- Alfonso Soriano provided the late-inning offense Garza was hoping for. With one out and two on in the eighth, he belted a long home run to center to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. We’d add on two more runs in the ninth, but Soriano’s long bomb provided the lift the Cubs needed, allowed Garza to leave the game, and turn things over to the bullpen.
What Went Wrong
- About the bullpen, though; it was once again less-than-great. Marshall got out of an eighth inning jam by being his usual, stellar self. But the jam was created by Jeff Samardzija, who walked the first batter he saw, then gave up a single to advance that runner to third base, and then gave up a stolen base to leave the game with only one out and runners on second and third. After Marshall got out of the eighth unscathed and the Cubs added on two more insurance runs, Carlos Marmol came in to close out the game. No surprise–he was unreliable and unwieldy, needing 31 pitches to get out of the ninth (he face five hitters in all). When he walked his second hitter of the inning, I half expected Garza to charge out of the dugout and tackle him. I don’t have much faith in him or Samardzija, and I wouldn’t be devastated if either (or both) of them had pitched his last game in a Cubs uniform tonight.
- Despite the meaninglessness of the outcome, it was nice to see the Cubs fight for a win again. I wish it had been that way when the games still mattered. And no, I’m not just talking about the early part of the season–it would have been nice to see the team put up this kind of fight as recently as this past weekend, instead of laying down for St. Louis. And although the Cubs are only playing out the last bit of the string tomorrow, there will be meaningful baseball. Going into the last day of the season, the Cardinals and Braves are tied for the Wild Card. The Rays and Red Sox are tied for the AL Wild Card spot, as well. So if you can’t stomach one final slap fight for the Cubs, flip over and cheer for the Astros and Braves to keep St. Louis out of the postseason. That might only be a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)
1st Star – Alfonso Soriano (.508 WPA)
2nd Star – Sean Marshall (.248 WPA)
3rd Star – Cameron Maybin (.180 WPA)