Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

All’s Wells That Ends Well

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 16, 2010

I had the privilege of going to the Chicago/Milwaukee game this Wednesday past.  Third base line, 7th row, right at 3rd base.  I had a chance to see my favorite Cubs pitcher work.  Wells was far from his best, but the Brewers are not the kind of team you are trying to shut out.  Of his 104 pitches, 70 were strikes (16 looking/12 swinging).  He allowed 10 hits, but 3 were infield hits, and one of 3 doubles was a poor defensive read.  In baseball as in life, I must agree with P.J. O’Rourke that age and guile are not to be discounted.  Wells may only be a 2nd year player, but he is 28 and a damn smart pitcher.  He is appointment TV/radio/live action.

Wells was hurt twice by left field defense, first on a mishandled hit in the corner, and second on a misjudged ball off the wall.  A description of the first play is discussed later, but the second play was equally pivotal.  In the top of the 7th, a fly out followed by a weak dribbling single began Milwaukee’s attack.  Corey Hart then connected on a ball that struck part of the way up the left field wall.  Soriano made a very late break backwards and was way too close to the wall to play it off the carom.  It was probably catchable if he breaks clean.  And it’s probably a 2nd-and-3rd situation if he doesn’t have to retrace his steps to field it.  Soriano survived the play, but Wells did not.  Hart moved to third on a Ryan Braun groundout induced by sinkerballer Justin Berg, who then gave way to lefty James Russell.  At this point, Lou Piniella made the double switch, inserting Tyler Colvin into the outfield and ending Sori’s day with a chorus of boos.  For the second game in a row, Russell got Fielder out.

On Wednesday two defensive plays stood out.  First was an outfield assist, something that shows up in the box score.  Carlos Gomez had bunted for a hit with one out in the top of the fifth.  The next hitter, impressive rookie Alcides Escobar, singled deep to right-center on a line drive.  Marlon Byrd fielded the ball and threw a multi-hop strike to Aramis Ramirez to nail Gomez trying to go first-to-third.  It was a perfect throw and had ramifications on the rest of the game.  The pitcher Bush worked a full-count and a walk on a few questionable calls.  The next hitter, Rickie Weeks, doubled down the left field line.  Soriano was slow getting to the ball, as if he feared his body couldn’t be trusted to slow down in time to avoid the padded wall.  Upon reaching it, he tried to bare-hand it but didn’t get it on the first try.  Weeks ended up and third and, arguably, Bush could have been held or gunned out at home with a quick response and clean pickup.  Byrd’s defensive play saved the one run that Soriano gave away.

The second play is invisible.  It isn’t in a box score and most of the fans at the park will probably forget it in favor of the dramatic 8th inning comeback.  On a fly ball to deep center-right, Byrd, who plays a shallow center (much like a younger Jim Edmonds)  got a great break but was still out of position as it descended.  At the edge of the track, he laid out and just missed it on the dive.  But it felt like he was back up on his feet, with the ball, whirling around and whipping it back to the infield in the same motion.  To be honest, I’m not sure whether it was the first or second of the pair of triples debuting Jeff Gray surrendered consecutively in the top of the 8th.  Either way, it was a memorable non-play in a forgettable half-inning.

A familiar set position took the mound.  Glove on back hip.  Slight front shoulder dip.  It couldn’t be.  It was!  LaTroy, best remembered for being terrible against the Cubs ever since he left – at least it feels that way.  Two quick outs and the quitters who left early must’ve been feeling pretty smart.  But, funny thing, Jeff Baker singled.  Baker/Fontenot is turning into the kind of effective platoon that I only see on the backs of my 1980s baseball card collection.  It’s been a long time since the 250/400 PA split seems to have worked out, no matter how often it’s tried.  Let’s hope it keeps up.  Soto coaxed a walk, a nice addendum to his solo shot to Waveland for the game’s first run much earlier.  The rookie Colvin was up.  The kid who led the Cactus League in hitting but didn’t draw one walk all spring.  Took one when it mattered, though.  Loaded bases for the top of the order.  Theriot singles on a 2-strike pitch.  Theriot steals second.  Fukudome singles on a 1-2 count.  Ramirez goes down yet again.  But for the only time all year, the Cubs were manufacturing runs as opposed to walloping bad pitches.

A final thought:

Randy Wells began the game by striking out the side in the first inning, all swinging.  Carlos Marmol came in for the save and aped the starter, making the heart of Milwaukee’s order look foolish as they flailed at and buckled to his slider and fastball.  A great experience.  An entertaining game.  A win.  In baseball as in politics, by any means necessary.

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