Game 120 – Picking Up the Pieces
Cubs 8, Braves 4
What Went Right
- Hit Parade The Cubs put up 14 hits tonight. Castro and Barney both had four, and Tyler Colvin had two – a triple and a double. Even Campana got in on the action, with a hit in his only at-bat. Looking back over that list of players, tonight was perhaps a glimpse of what many Cubs fans hope to see for years to come. I won’t get ahead of myself, but it was a good night for the Cubs’ youth movement. We’ll see if it lasts.
- Starting Out on the Right Foot Hey, look at that–Randy Wells got out of the 1st inning without giving up a run! He did allow Dan Uggla to extend his now 33-game hitting streak, but that’s a minor thing compared to some of the deep holes he’s been digging for the Cubs in his early innings of late.
- Calling in the Cavalry Most of the Cubs’ relievers pitched pretty well tonight. Ortiz and Russell each surrendered a run and a pair of hits–and Russell in particular had a rough night, loading the bases before Marmol came in for the save–but Samardzija, Marshall and Marmol all held the Braves scoreless and hitless. Not a great overall night for the bullpen, but solid enough to hold on for the win.
What Went Wrong
- No Free Passes I realize that you never want to walk the lead-off hitter, but Dan Uggla’s at-bat to start the bottom of the 4th was still pretty frustrating. He reached base every time he came up yesterday–including 2 homers–and he had a single in the first tonight. So while his solo homer tonight didn’t do too much damage in the long run, it was enough at the time to tie up the game. In fact, we weren’t able to retire him at all until the 7th. All I’m saying is that the intentional walk can be a useful tool, and might be one we’d like to use sometimes against hitters as hot as Uggla.
- No Need to Nitpick There were other small miscues here and there–we left 9 runners on base, Marshall’s error at first–but I’m inclined ignore the little things with all that’s happened in the last day or so. In light of the major off-the-field distractions, their performance on the field tonight was fairly admirable.
- The Paul Sullivan Choir sings “Ding Dong Big Z is Dead” I said this in the comments section from yesterday’s recap, but I’ll say it here again. I for one am sorry to see what’s almost sure to be the end of Zambrano’s tenure with the Cubs. He’s got no one to blame but himself, but he also doesn’t seem to have any allies–not on his team so far, and certainly not in the press. This is the explosion sportswriters have been predicting for years–in fact, the dominant storyline about Z has been when, not if he would lose his head again. Most of them couldn’t be happier, and their delight over the ashes of his Cubs career means we might not ever get the full story of what happened last night. Zambrano’s said all season, and often in previous seasons that he wanted to be a Cub for his entire career. Something had to set him off last night–something serious enough to make him walk away from the team he’s been with since he was (reportedly) 16 years old. I doubt very much that that’s a story many writers will put much work into any time soon. Right now, they’re too busy high-fiving each other.
- How Do You Solve a Problem Like Zambrano? Jim Hendry must be absolutely giddy. Zambrano’s contract–while certainly not the biggest albatross Hendry’s brought to the Cubs–was a significant problem for the team. So significant in fact that he was begging the Yankees to take Z off our hands as recently as the last couple weeks. Zambrano was also one of the first players Hendry put on waivers this August. Now that problem is temporarily off his back–with Zambrano on the Disqualified List for the next month, the Cubs don’t have to pay him and can use the time to find a solution to the problem Z presents. Jim Hendry’s career might soon be crushed under the weight of the bad contracts he’s given out. Zambrao’s outburst seems to have bought him a little breathing room.
- From the Non-News Files Earlier today, MLB Trade Rumors linked to this tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, saying that the Cubs would keep Jim Hendry on as GM unless there is a “change of thinking.” Which has basically been true since Ricketts offered Hendry his vote of confidence earlier this year in the now-infamous press conference when he said the Cubs’ only problem was injuries. So congratulations Bob Nightengale for giving me a momentary heart attack but no real news of any substance. And here’s hoping the Ricketts’ have a “change of thinking,” and that it leads to a Hendry change of employment.
The young guys performed tonight. They need to keep doing it. They are, in the words of Princess Leia, our only hope.
Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)
1st Star – Dan Uggla (.201 WPA)
2nd Star – Darwin Barney (.196 WPA)
3rd Star – Carlos Pena (.184 WPA)