The Cubs extended their lead in the Wild Card race with an exciting 2-1 victory over the Mets last night as the Giants lost to the Dodgers 3-2 despite homerun number 702 from Barry Bonds.
I was in Indianapolis all day for work and so taped the game and watched it late last night. Glendon Rusch pitched 6 solid innings, Kyle Farnsworth looked a bit shaky in the 7th, John Leceister was very solid in the 8th and 9th as was Mike Remlinger, and LaTroy Hawkins pitched a pretty good 10th to pick up the save. Kurt Benson for the Mets pitched very well and had his slider working. Umpire Dale Scott had a pretty big outside corner that Benson used well. In fact, Benson's only real mistake was a hanging slider to Aramis Ramirez in the 7th that wound up in the left-field seats to tie the game. In the 10th, Derrek Lee singled in Mark Grudzielanek who had walked. Lee then stole second off Brendon Looper/Mike Piazza on a pitch out and was later thrown out at third on an ill-conceived stolen base attempt. Other Notes:
- Piazza looked terrible behind the plate in the late innings (giving up a wild pitch in the 9th that almost cost the game) after playing first most of the game. Sammy Sosa also looked confused at the plate, fouling off the 2 or 3 good pitches he got and either striking out or weakly grounding out.
- Yesterday's lineup was what I consider the best lineup the Cubs can put on the field and it was the first time I remember seeing it. I hope Dusty rides it for the last 9 games.
CF Corey Patterson
LF Moises Alou
RF Sammy Sosa
SS Nomar Garciapara
2B Todd Walker
C Michael Barrett
- Patterson is also once again struggling at the plate and seems to have lost his plate discipline. He's getting down in the count early by swinging at the first two pitches almost every at bat.
- Today the Cubs will go with Mark Prior against Aaron Heilman, starting only his 4th game of the season. He pitched well last time out against the Pirates on 9/19.
On my way home from the airport I listened to the last inning of the Royals 8-6 victory over the White Sox. John Buck hit two homeruns and a single to raise his season average to .243. When Buck first came over from the Astros he looked totally overmatched at the plate. Apparently, Jeff Pentland worked with him to not be so much of an arm swinger and that has helped. Since August 1st Buck has hit .286 (39-136) with a .647 slugging percentage (8 doubles and 11 homeruns). He still has no plate discipline (7 walks and 40 strikeouts) but he's making better contact and he's a strong guy who'll get his share of homeruns. You have to figure that he'll be the starting catcher when spring training starts and that Benito Santiago will take a backup role if he's still with the club.
On another front Calvin Pickering is performing as advertised (.271/.531/.357) and has driven in 22 runs in 27 games. Since the Royals signed Matt Stairs to a contract next season that appears to leave Pickering out in the cold unless they can deal Ken Harvey or Mike Sweeney.
The most inexplicable moment of the game came in the 9th inning when the White Sox had already scored 2 runs off of Mike MacDougal to come to within 8-6. With runners on first and second and still nobody out Aaron Rowand (.317/.550/.369) was asked to bunt by manager Ozzie Guillen. I'm certain it was Guillen's choice since Rowand squared around the pitch before he actually bunted as the Royals announcers mentioned. I'm not sure where Guillen is from but on this planet anyway, that's just plain wrong wrong wrong. The run potential in that situation is 1.573. If Rowand is successful it goes down to 1.467 and only raises the scoring probability by 5.4% (to 69.5%). And that's with an average hitter at the plate - Rowand is far above average. It only gets worse when you consider that a lesser hitter, Juan Uribe (.276/.496/.322), was on deck. At best, the bunt in that situation is a one-run strategy (the break-even percentage to score one run is 79.9%).
Although I haven't watched many White Sox games this season (I try to avoid their announcer "Hawk" Harrelson, see this post for a discussion of why), this sounds like what Baseball Prospectus described in its essay on the White Sox.
"It is natural to assume that, as a field manager, Guillen will prefer the same style of play that he practiced. And Ozzie Guillen, though a smart, eloquent man, was one wicked stupid baseball player, running reckless on the basepaths, swinging at any pitch within a foot of the plate. That approach, of course, would be disastrous for the Pale Hose, whose aging collection of sluggers is far more South-side Hitman than Go-Go Sock."
And there is some evidence that Guillen has led the Sox down his own path. Although tied for 2nd in baseball with 222 homeruns and 5th in runs scored with 818, they are 21st in walks (475) and first in the AL in sacrifice hits with 57. They've also stolen 76 bases but been caught 46 times for a very unimpressive 61.3%.