Nationals 2 @ Cubs 1
Opening day is always hard to watch unless it’s a blowout win. There is so much emotion involved for me. I liken it to the equivalent of when you give something up for lent that you so badly want. When it finally comes time to partake in it again that first time, there is so much hype that it can’t possibly deliver fully. For me, not watching spring training games is the lent for my baseball passion. As a result, when opening day comes I’m so jacked that I can’t think about anything else, which in turn leads to immense emotional angst when we lose in the fashion we did today. I came away from the loss with two main thoughts.
The bullpen is going to be a work in progress – Looking over the pen, is there really a guy in there that strikes fear in the heart of the opponent and relief in your mind that the inning is taken care of? When I look at the guys in this current pen, I don’t feel confidence yet in any of them. There is definitely potential there to be very good. Guys like Rafael Dolis and James Russell have a lot of upside from the right and left side and show the promise of being the setup men later this year, but they’re unproven. Jeff Samardzija, who came on in the second half of the season last year was a welcomed edition to the pen, but he’s now in the rotation. Andrew Cashner, who projected to be the potential successor to Carlos Marmol in the 9th inning is now a San Diego Padre. As a result, we’ll have to take a wait and see approach to what we have. I think the key, and it’s something I love about how the pen is constructed, is to continue to stay relatively low budget in the pen and develop guys on the cheap from the system. Guys in the pen are so fickle with their numbers so paying big money for big names is absurd to me. Because of that, I’m willing to give the young guys in the pen a pass. Guys like Kerry Wood and Marmol, who both allowed a run today, do not get the pass. Wood came in today with one simple job to do. Get one out. The situation not urgent as there were two outs and a simple runner on 1st. You have to be able to get the game to the 9th in that situation. There’s simply no excuse. Did the umpire call a tight zone? Sure, there is no doubt Wood was squeezed on a number of strikes, but you can’t let the umpire beat you. Looking at the heat map you can see that Dana DeMuth was less than reliable with the high strike, which was the pitch he squeezed Wood on in the 8th.
If you put yourself in that position, you deserve to get what you get. It’s just a shame that the pen couldn’t hold such a nice performance by Ryan Dempster.
Situational awareness has to be better – There were several instances where I was simply shaking my head and the result on the field based on the situation. The first came in the bottom of the 4th when Soriano tried to steal 3rd base. At the time, there were two men on an just one out in a scoreless game. You have to know the situation. I don’t know if Soriano was sent or if he ran on his own, I got the impression from the Svuem press conference that he was sent. Either is inexcusable. Later in the game, after a triple that was nearly a game tying home run by Ian Stewart in the 9th gave the Cubs a shot to send the game to extras. At that point, you have one out and a man on third. In that situation, the expected run output is .967. It’s almost a lock that we tie that game. Why run on contact? I don’t see the point. Take the two at bats and try to knock a single to get the guy home. Don’t run yourself out of the game.
It definitely sucks to lose on opening day and it sucks even more to lose the way we did. It’s important to remember that it’s only one game and we’re not expected to win consistently anyway. I understand that, I just don’t like losing the way we did.