Juan Mateo pitched a great game tonight and he also earned the respect of his teammates in the process. Roger Clemens paid the Cubs back for last night’s hit batsman (Aubrey Huff) when he plunked Jacque Jones. Jones took it like a man and went down to first with his head down – in his next at bat Jones slammed Clemens’ pitch to straightaway center and gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead. In your face Roger!
But it wasn’t over then – When Clemens came up to bat Mateo wasted no time and threw a mid-90s fastball right into Clemens’ left bicep. The message was very clear – “you hit my guy I hit you.” Mateo then finished off the fifth and went to the dugout with a 5-2 advantage.
So what did Dusty do? He pulled Mateo despite the fact that he’d only thrown 78 pitches through five. Ryan Theriot was chosen to be the sacrificial lamb and Clemens promptly plunked him. I seriously wonder if he would have done the same thing to Mateo. Ohman came in and did what Ohman often does, he blew it.
I’m sure that Johnny B will say in retrospect that he was “protecting his young pitcher” and keeping things from escalating, he’s probably thinking his way through pat answers as I write. Fortunately Matt Murton came in to save the Dusty’s skin in the ninth, but the point remains that the Cubs manager has got to stop blowing critical decisions if he’s to have any chance of returning in 2007.
Update: It is now 12:37 AM Central time, those of us who have stayed up for this one have just been treated to another clutch hit by Murton, who scored both Ramirez and Jones to give the Cubs an 8-6 victory. The entire bullpen was used so the Cubs had to go to tomorrow’s starter Rich Hill to nail down the game. Look for the Cubs to bring up a pitcher to start tomorrow’s game, it will probably be Wade Miller or perhaps Sean Marshall. It is fortuitious that the Iowa Cubs are playing the Astros’ AAA Round Rock Express just 3 1/2 hours away. Tonight’s 18 inning win assures that the Cubs will win this road series in Houston.