Before I light into the Cubs manager, and I will, we’ll clear some other things out first.
-Yes, the Cubs have scored three runs in two games. They’ve come on two swings. They’re not even putting together threats. The walks they used to generate haven’t been anywhere to be seen either.
But the idea that the Cubs should be pouring in eight runs a game is far-fetched, to put it kindly. The Dodgers had the best starters’ and bullpen ERA in baseball this year. You’re not going to score a lot of runs every game. There will be a game where the Cubs do, maybe even a couple. But still, you have to scratch out wins in games where you get two or three runs. Even if those come in extras. The Cubs did it twice against DC, and that’s why they’re here. Yes, they have to get more offense than they have, but to expect an avalanche is going to leave you awfully frustrated.
-Second, while it was mostly yeoman’s work from the pen tonight, the walks are killing this team. Strop walked Taylor in the 7th with two outs. Duensing walked Puig to lead off the 9th. Lester walked five, which kept him from going deep into the game. Again, this is what the Dodgers do, and you can’t just start pouring pitches into the zone because they’ll start bashing baseballs all over the place. It’s a tough needle to thread, but if you want to beat a 104-win team that’s how it’s going to be.
Those walks keep turning the lineup over and extending pitchers. If Strop and Duensing can avoid them, and Duensing’s error, you’re not dealing with Justin Turner at the worst possible time, or setting up your manager to light his face on fire.
-All right, let’s get to it. The 9th inning was simply inexcusable from Joe Maddon. You cannot plan for a save you don’t have yet and aren’t guaranteed of getting. You cannot ask a starter who has been a starter for 15 YEARS to pitch on two consecutive days out of the pen, including bringing him in the middle of an inning in the highest-leverage possible situation. It’s unfair, and while Lackey would never shirk the responsibility it’s still too much to ask. Especially when most of his problems this year have been in the 1st inning and first time through the lineup. He’s your insurance policy in case a starter goes short or the game goes to extras.
While Rondon has been a dicey proposition to say the least, he’s at least done this before. Or beyond that, this is the ballgame. The Dodgers best hitter with the game on the bases. Are you really going to go down without using your best reliever? You don’t get to a “save” situation, which is antiquated thinking, if you can’t get out of this spot. Fuck, then bring in Lackey or Rondon who would get a clean inning and at least a lead to work with. It is baseball neanderthal thinking and you have every right to be livid. I am.
-Joe should probably shoulder some blame that his hitters’ approach was woeful. Prime example was the top of the 9th, when after Rizzo got hit both Contreras and Almora swung at seven pitches that were a combined 20 feet above the strike zone. And that wasn’t the only time this has happened. This isn’t how the Cubs attack.
And all playoffs, and basically the last half of the season, Maddon hasn’t let Almora anywhere near a right-handed pitcher. So now he has to face possibly the toughest one in the game? And then he’s switched out for Leonys Martin? If Maddon was playing the long game with Davis, then what the fuck was he going to do with Martin at the plate? Where is Ian Happ? Why was Zobrist inserted in a spot where it was obvious he was going to be made to hit right-handed which he can’t do this year? Why couldn’t they find a spot for Kyle Schwarber? What is going on? Contreras hasn’t hit for shit, is Avila not an option at all? Faith is faith and I appreciate it most of the time, but at some point…
-The Cubs are down but not out, but man it’s tough from here. Darvish and Wood can both go to the zoo on you, but they can both shut down a lineup. And the Cubs are going to have to figure out something against this pen. Hendricks will have to discover his Game 1 form and not have his Game 5 form from the last series. Arrieta is going to have to be over the plate way more than he’s been, or the Dodgers will force him into another short outing. On the bright side, the Cubs got a solid pen game with a day off that everyone can build off of.
That is if their manager stops pissing into his own mouth.