Box Score / Highlights

Star of the Game – Travis Wood (.357 WPA)


Keys to the Game

Starting Pitching – When I looked at the series pitching match ups, I felt really good about Jeff Samardjiza and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood. Now that the series is over, I came away thrilled at what we’ve seen from the rotation so far this season. Jeremiah mentioned that he felt that Jackson was pretty good in his start. I don’t know that I would go that far, considering the short length of the start and the sudden loss of command fairly early in the outing, but his start was acceptable considering the fact that he kept the team in the game. Wood, however, was great, throwing six innings of one hit baseball while striking out four and walking just 2. His only hit was a meaningless double by Clint Barmes and he left the game having only thrown 85 pitches. A case could have been made for him to come out to pitch the 7th inning considering the low pitch count and the success of the first six innings, but in a game where the lead was just 1-0, Sveum decided to accept six innings and go to the pen. I would have brought Wood out there in the 7th. Maybe that would have worked. Maybe it wouldn’t have, but I just feel like you let you starter work deeper to stay out of that pen as much as possible. In the end, I can’t complain about the result and I’m happy to see Wood get the win in this one.

Bullpen Good – It was a bit of a mix and match bullpen to close out the last three innings, which drives me nuts, but I know it’s the way of bullpen management. Pitches have their specialized roles and today was a great example of Dale’s ideal usage for the pitchers we saw in relief. Ideally he’ll use Shawn Camp and James Russell in the 7th inning to get through and play the match ups in those situations. Kyuji Fujikawa will get the 8th, presumably for the time being, in an effort to get the game to the 9th for Carlos Marmol. All three did their job and did it effectively. I like what I see so far from Fujikawa so far in the two appearances this season. In both outings, he seems to trust his stuff and go right at the hitter. He’s not nibbling around the zone and wasting pitches. He seems to have really good command, which should allow for him to keep runners off base via the walk. Overall a nice day in relief for the middle relievers.

Bullpen Bad – The story overshadowing the win, once again, is the performance of Marmol. Once again Sveum brought him in for the 9th and once again he struggled. If you look at the graph above, the game should have been won by the Pirates. They entered the 9th inning with about as low a chance of winning the game as you can possibly have after the two insurance runs were scored in the top half of the inning. With two on and just one out, they had run that win probability all the way up to about 65% only to have the door slammed shut on the double play to end it. Marmol is going to come away from the game with more complaints and more criticism, and it’s deserved, but what I saw today that I didn’t seem in game one of the series was better command of his pitches. He was much more accurate around the zone. Today he was just not missing bats. He was hittable and it cost him. Most of the time his struggles are due to command. Today, I didn’t feel like that was the case.

I don’t know what you do going forward. The temptation, once again, will be for Sveum to replace him with Fujikawa. I understand that and in an ideal situation, that’s the best move to make. However, the situation we’re dealing with now is the fact that the Cubs want to cut ties with Marmol. To do that, he has to be right and he has to be showcased. The only way to make that happen is to continue to run him out there day after day and let him save games. Today, as ugly as it looked, he finished the game and didn’t blow the lead. We have to consider that progress, pat him on the butt and try to help him feel somewhat encouraged for doing the job today.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • The Chicago Sun Times reported today that the Cubs and the City of Chicago are close to finalizing a deal to renovate the stadium and should have it done by the home opener. Rumors are that the deal would include a jumbotron in left field. Other rumors are more night games, with the ban being raised from 30 to 40 night games and a badly needed parking garage.
  • Paul Sullivan complained that he was too cold, and asked for the windows to be closed in the press box. Len pointed it out during the broadcast and it just reminded me how much I dislike Sullivan. He’s whiny and really doesn’t seem to like the team he covers.
  • Nate Schierholtz continues to get on base. He’s up to an OBP so far in the three games of .556, which leads to another note that Len mentioned. The Cubs are slated to play Cincinnati very soon. Len talked about how Joey Votto was one of the better names in baseball if you’re wanting to just talk hitting with and talked about how his OBP last year was .475. I knew he was an outstanding player, but that’s just a ridiculous number
  • Dioner Navarro….4 PA and just 9 pitches seen. Shame on you.
  • I felt like Phil Cuzzi’s strike zone was very wide, with the high and low strikes both being called, but very consistent. He seemed to call it the same for both teams and that’s all I ask.
  • Logan Watkins was mentioned as a sleeper prospect by John Sickels on his blog, with the following note: “Watkins was a 21st round pick in 2009 from high school in Kansas but had the talent to go 15 rounds higher. This lefty hitter stole 28 bases with 76 walks and an overall .281/.383/.422 line in Double-A last season. He’s athletic, defensively versatile, and could be a fine utility man. His makeup is considered excellent.” (Source)
  • The Dodgers have released former Cubs closer, Kevin Gregg. That’s a Greggin’ sad piece of news as his career is probably over.
  • Yesterday it was announced that the Cubs had signed veteran infielder, Donnie Murphy, to a minor league deal with him being assigned to AAA Iowa. Also from a transactional note, the Cleveland Indians claimed Robert Whitenack off irrevocable waivers, so his time in the Cubs system has come to an end. Whitenack was placed on waivers to remove him from the 40 man roster earlier in the week.

The Cubs move on with a series win under their belt and board a plane for Atlanta to take on the Braves this weekend. Here is a look at the pitching match ups for the series.

Friday – 7:30p EDT (CSN) – Scott Feldman (RHP) vs Mike Minor (LHP)

This will be Feldman’s first start for the Cubs, first start at Turner Field and only his second game against the Braves. He has a career 5.38 ERA. Minor compiled a 6.20 ERA through his first 15 starts last year and a 2.21 ERA during his final 15 starts. The left-hander’s turnaround began on July 4 when he limited the Cubs to one run in six innings.

Saturday – 7:10p EDT (WGN) – Carlos Villanueva (RHP) vs Julio Teheran (RHP)

Villanueva was projected as a long man but inserted into the rotation after injuries to both Matt Garza and Scott Baker. In his career, Villanueva is 16-22 in 56 starts with a 4.80 ERA. Teheran has matured physically and become a more complete pitcher since struggling at Triple-A Gwinnett last year. The development of a two-seam fastball has turned things around for the highly regarded prospect.

Sunday – 1:35p EDT (CSN) – Jeff Samardzija (RHP) vs Tim Hudson (RHP)

Samardzija pitched a gem in his Opening Day start, holding the Pirates to two hits over eight scoreless innings. His offspeed pitches were impressive. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: “The last two times we’ve seen him, he’s been a beast out there.” Hudson was in command until he ran out of gas and had to exit with one out in the fifth inning of Monday’s Opening Day start against the Phillies. The 37-year-old right-hander will enter with an extra day of rest.

All scouting notes taken from MLB.com

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail