It’s nice that it only took a couple weeks of playing good baseball before everyone stopped pouring gasoline over their heads around here. It’s also a relief to watch the Cubs win a game against one of the game’s top pitchers, not only because the win feels just a touch special but it also keeps people from reaching back for the gas canister to save themselves from their fears of October.
It’s not that Jose Fernandez was bad last night, far from it. But the Cubs did what they’re more than capable of doing in October, which is scratch out just enough hits and having one of the members of their stellar (repeat: stellar, for those who forget this) rotation outpitch him. It’s not that hard… all it takes is a little push.
Jason Hammel has now passed the mark of where his second half “collapse” would begin, and now it would simply be a final third collapse. And I’m not really expecting that either. He has lasered his fastball and slider to the outside corner and low all season, except for some hiccups here and there which every pitcher has. He was cruising last night.
Which makes the decision to pull him after just 80 pitches and six innings a little curious, though it worked out. There are a few facets here. First, Joe Maddon felt he had a chance to break the game open with two runners on and two outs. The thing is, right now Jason Hammel is a better bet to knock those runners in than Miggy Montero. I know it sounds silly, but Montero seriously can’t hit a bull in the ass with a snow shovel right now. That doesn’t mean pinch hitting was the wrong call. But if we scream these days about using your best relievers at the right times, i.e. against the best hitters, than this is the reverse. If this was a chance to end the contest, send up Bryant and be done with it. You’re saving him for a moment that might not come or be needed. This was the offensive version of only using your closer in the 9th in a save situation, something Maddon has shown he’s not tethered to (though Chapman may make him).
Second, the pen still wasn’t all that rested. They got one night off thanks to Hendricks. Rondon has now thrown four of the past six games, though given his light workload in the first half of the season may be that’s not a big deal. Same for Chapman. I know they’re there and it’s awfully tempting, but Hammel could have easily given the Cubs one or two more innings with a three run lead, turn it straight to Strop and give everyone else an extra day off after Sunday’s exertions. It was curious.
But it worked out. So I guess I should stop shouting at the rain.
-The thing about Baez’s first play in the 9th, and I love that I have to number them, is by how much he gets the runner. We’ve seen this before with Baez, where he charges and bare-hands a ball and then throws the runner out by such a margin that Rizzo barely moves. Even Rizzo can’t really believe it. That’s how strong his arm is and quick his jump on the ball in the first place. It’s pretty ridiculous.
-The Cubs have won their last three games with nary a homer. That’s lovely.