Quite a number of things got reversed in today's 3-2 Cub win over the Pirates, not the least of which was the weather; predictions of possible rain rumbled by early this morning, but the only rumbles of thunder in the area were heard in the far western suburbs, and unlike yesterday (another reversal), when the wind shifted from southeast to east and the temperature dropped 15 degrees, today, the east wind shifted to south, blowing out directly at us in left field by game's end, and the temperature on the gauge in my car when I got there after the game read "75 degrees" -- I hadn't thought it was that warm, but we'll take a bonus nice day anytime in mid-April.
Reversed also were the fortunes of Rich Hill, who hadn't really pitched well (as Dave reminded me) since mid-September of last year. He started out with yet another walk, but picked Nate McLouth off first base, and despite giving up a run to the Pirates in the second inning on two singles and a double, lookd pretty solid all afternoon. His 82-pitch outing was ended by Lou after five innings -- likely to give him a shot at a win -- and the bullpen took over.
And here is where I have my only quibble with Lou's managing this afternoon. Kevin Hart was warming up in the 5th inning, in case Hill got into more trouble, but then sat down and Jon Lieber -- who threw an inning yesterday -- came into the game. Now what's the point of that? Lieber is now probably unavailable tomorrow, and so is Carlos Marmol, who threw 43 pitches in two innings and gave up a wind-blown HR to McLouth that made the score 3-2 in the 8th. Marmol, as Dave and I agreed, isn't suited to be a two-inning pitcher; his job is going to be to pitch in the 7th, to set up for Bob Howry in the 8th... and of course, Howry may not have been available, having thrown a 14-pitch inning yesterday... which brings us back to the original question of this paragraph: why wasn't Hart in the game in the sixth? Credit where credit is due: Kerry Wood was outstanding today. Before I could even finish writing "Mientkiewicz" on my scorecard, Wood had retired him on a grounder to first.
Too many quibbles, I guess, for a game the Cubs won. Dave said, "Lou's managing this game like it's a pennant race game in September, instead of a game in mid-April", and I think he's right. There's no need to risk burning out the bullpen this early in the year. What has to happen, as I told him, is that the starters have to start going consistently deeper into games. We can't keep having these five-inning outings all the time.
Meanwhile, the offense did just enough, even without any HR on a day when the wind shifted and was blowing out from about the fourth inning on. The Cubs scored all their runs in that fourth inning, getting the first four men on base and then, with Rich Hill up ostensibly to bunt, he hit a ball that would have gone through the infield if Luis Rivas hadn't been shading toward 2B. Hill beat the DP relay throw, and then Eric Patterson hit a ball to almost the same spot -- but also beat the relay, and got an RBI as a result, when Geovany Soto scored what turned out to be the margin-of-victory run. McLouth, for his part, got into the action a little more than he might have liked; in chasing down Kosuke Fukudome's triple he got a beer thrown in his direction. Unfortunately, that's more stupid behavior by ONE bleacher fan. I trust the Pirates announcers let it go.
Reed Johnson had two more hits today and may, by default, have won the CF job. Lou likes playing the hot hand and Johnson has looked good. This was the one game in the series where Felix Pie might have started; two LHP's are going the next two days. If Pie's not going to play, they may as well send him back to Iowa and bring Matt Murton up. My feelings on this issue are well-known. Pie has talent, but we're never going to find out whether he can play or not unless he plays. (I know that sounds silly, but it's the truth.) Sitting on the bench here is pointless for him, and bringing Murton up would allow Mark DeRosa to go back to playing 2B. I don't think that Eric Patterson is any real solution to the problem -- no matter what Christina Kahrl has written at Baseball Prospectus.
However, the team is winning, so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut on the issue. This weird schedule has the Cubs playing the Pirates six of the first 18 games -- and wouldn't it be nice to sweep them again?
Some people in the section just to our left attempted to start a wave in the eighth inning. Fortunately, they failed. Earlier, I had met BCB readers coral and bobby h, who both stopped by to say hi. Nice to meet you both this afternoon.
Finally, my son Mark was off school today, so he came to the game. Running off to ballhawk during BP, he brought back two baseballs and I saw him nearly catch a third on the fly. Also, he's now 3-0 in games attended. I'm thinking I've got to get him out to more ballgames (when school's out, of course).Click here for my scorecard (opens in new browser window)