Cubs 4, Astros 3 (12 innings)
What Went Right
Patience – an impressive display of patience by our hitters today. The Cubs drew a total of 9 walks, and two each for the free-swinging Starlin Castro and Marlon Byrd. The so-called winning run scored in the 12th because of Castro’s second walk.
Garza – there’ll be more about him later. But I can’t begrudge him this spot, other than Carlos Lee, Garza carved through the AAAAstros with relative ease. In five of his nine innings he faced only three batters. After Carlos Lee homered to lead off the second, the Astros had only one baserunner reach second base until the 9th.
Marmol – he was nasty today. Only one hitter even saw a single ball; 17 of his 19 pitches were strikes. He retired 6 straight hitters. The rest of the bullpen was solid; but Marmol was brilliant.
What Went Wrong
Mike Quade – see below…
Umpires – the umpires were terrible, particularly home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. In the first Darwin Barney grounded into a double play off of his left hand – even though most of the Astros believed he’d been HBP. In the 9th, Castro struck out on a pitch that was both high and outside.
Fast forward to the 12th, bases loaded with Cubs, one out and Marlon Byrd at the plate. Byrd goes up there hacking even though Astros reliever David Carpenter had walked Castro, intentionally walked Ramirez, thrown a wild pitch and after going 3-0 to Reed Johnson, he threw the fourth intentionally wide to him too. That sounds like a guy who has command of the zone.
So after taking ball one, Byrd gets antsy and swings. Not, mind you, at a pitch that he can really drive; just at something that might’ve possibly had the chance of being called a strike. He gets a hold of it; it bounces once, then a second time right on the chalk halfway up the third base line. The third time it bounces after Astros third baseman Chris Johnson touches it in what appeared to be (admittedly, after replay) foul territory. It grazes the chalk again after Johnson touches it; third base umpire David Rackley calls it fair and home plate umpire Jeff Nelson does not overrule him. Cubs Win, Cubs Win – even though Castro, who watched the flight of the ball, wasn’t convinced himself.
The umpires weren’t needed much, but on the close/important calls they got almost everything wrong.
I’m unclear as to whether the Astros can protest the outcome. Judgment decisions are not permitted for protest – but if ever there was a game that would be easy to pick up from the point in question, this would be it.
Mike Quade might be the worst MLB manager. I’m not intimately acquainted with every other manager, but certainly there can’t be too many who regularly use a bench player to start in an unfamiliar position and/or bat him cleanup, or who with expanded rosters aren’t familiar with the appropriate time to use a pinch runner, or who can be so easily bullied by their starter and convinced beyond all rational thought that the starter deserves a fourth chance to face the ONE guy who has given him trouble – even though the bullpen boasts a reliever who has completely owned the same player. And that was just today!
Quade can’t fill out a lineup card – as evidenced by his stubborn refusal to give Bryan LaHair (never mind anyone else on the bench who has something to prove) a regular starting spot during a meaningless September. Today was essentially the Opening Day lineup with the notable exception of Jeff Baker in RF – notable because he was batting cleanup (though he shouldn’t) and playing in RF (though he shouldn’t).
The horse racing handicapper who moonlights as the Cubs’ manager also didn’t get much sleep last night. That can be the only acceptable explanation why when Carlos Pena hit a one-out double in the 11th, Quade didn’t immediately pinch-run for him with someone faster. You know, like ANYONE on the bench! After Campana walked, the cynical part of me was really pulling for a gapper whereby Campana would foolishly pass Pena on the basepath; I could almost taste the sweet agony.
But the cherry on top of Quade’s one game résumé was his stubborn refusal to remove Garza in the 9th. Garza had been cruising, and we all know he’s not the easiest person to remove from a game. Unfortunately, that’s Quade’s job…and unfortunately Mike Quade doesn’t like doing his job – or so it would seem. Garza had thrown 96 pitches at the start of the 9th. At that point, Quade was doing the right thing – Marmol was up and throwing; we had the wait-and-see approach with Garza.
Then Garza threw three straight balls and wound up surrendering a single. Here is the point at which Quade fails. REMOVE HIM! Barring a double play, Carlos Lee was going to hit as at least the tying run. Marmol sports a 3-for-21 record against Lee. It’s a literal no-brainer. Marmol still has wiggle room if he works his normal antics and no matter what happens Garza can’t suffer the loss.
Lee belts a game-tying two-run blast. Bogusevic then singles (finally we get a visit to the mound) and Paredes just misses the second two-run homer of the inning when he flies out to deep right field to end the threat. Garza would finish with 124 pitches, the most in his CAREER…remember, this is September and we’ve been eliminated for some time.
From what I remember, Quade was a fine third base coach – he’s a horri-awful manager.
Stars of the Game
Base on Win Probability Added (WPA)
1st Star – Fernando Rodriguez (.434 WPA)
2nd Star – Carlos Lee (.418 WPA)
3rd Star – Carlos Marmol (.291 WPA)