Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Paul Maholm pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Tuesday night's 5-1 Cubs win over the Pirates was so quick -- two hours and 27 minutes -- that I thought I'd recap it this evening, rather than wait till Wednesday morning, just a few hours before the afternoon game that will complete the three-game series and the road trip.
Paul Maholm was outstanding. How outstanding was he?
Paul Maholm is 1st #Cubs LHP w/at least 6 IP, 1 or fewer runs in 5 straight starts since 1918.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 25, 2012
That's either mighty impressive, or mighty sad, because it means the Cubs just haven't had very many good lefthanded starters over the last 94 years. I'll take "impressive"; Maholm had the Pirates beating the ball into the ground all night and really made just one mistake -- a ball grooved to Garrett Jones that wound up in the right-field seats, briefly tying the game after Starlin Castro had given the Cubs a 1-0 lead with his ninth homer of the season in the first inning.
Given the mess surrounding whether Ryan Dempster is going to be traded or not, does this game mean that Maholm is going to now be sent elsewhere? He'd certainly be attractive to the Braves, or Dodgers, or other teams the Cubs have talked to. However, Maholm, who just turned 30 last month, has a team-friendly option for $6.5 million for 2013. The way he's pitched most of the time since his first two starts of the year (which were horrific), that's not very much money to spend on someone who can be a solid No. 3 inning-eater for 2013, and maybe beyond. Someone's got to pitch for the Cubs next year, right?
Keep Maholm, I say. Also, one of the teams interested in him was the Pirates (oddly enough, since they seemed to have no interest in re-signing him when he left via free agency last offseason), but the Bucs acquired Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros Tuesday night, so they're probably set for soft-tossing lefties.
Regarding the rest of the game, the Cubs put a pair of runs on the board in the fifth when James McDonald -- uncharacteristically -- walked the bases loaded (including walking Maholm, just the fourth walk drawn by a Cubs pitcher this year), and then David DeJesus smacked a double down the right-field line.
Alfonso Soriano hit a no-doubt-about-it homer in the sixth, his 19th, to complete the scoring.
I was a bit puzzled when Carlos Marmol came into the game, pitching for the second straight night, this time in a non-save situation. Conclusion: they must be showcasing him for a possible deal. He wasn't quite as good as Monday night, giving up a double and walk, but then got out of the inning on a lazy fly to left and a game-ending double play. Unlike Monday, he had a bit of trouble finding the strike zone (seven strikes in 16 pitches), but if a scout was watching, he might have been intrigued enough to give Theo and Jed a call.
Ryan Dempster, who's now said he might take until next Tuesday's deadline day to decide if and where he wants to be traded, will thus start Wednesday afternoon against the Pirates. There was quite a bit of anti-Dempster sentiment (including from me) in the trade discussion threads this afternoon, so I'd feel remiss if I didn't at least mention the possible "other side". We know that Dempster and Theo had a very public meeting -- visible sitting in the stands -- a few weeks ago, presumably talking about whether Dempster would waive his 10-and-5 rights, and where he might go. We are all assuming that Dempster submitted a list of teams, or signed off on deals before Theo and Jed discussed them with other teams, and then, once a deal with the Braves appeared to be in place, reneged on a commitment.
Having thought about it a bit more, I think this question at least needs to be asked: What if he didn't make that commitment? Obviously, something got messed up when the deal was leaked -- in fact, written about by the Braves MLB.com beat writer -- and made public before Dempster could talk to management about it. There appears to be more to this story than we know; unfortunately, it seems as if damage has been done that might preclude any deal. We don't know whose fault this is.
What we do know is that it's turned into a mess for everyone involved. I only hope that things improve from here.
Wednesday's game preview will post at 10 a.m. CDT. I can only imagine things other than pitching might be on Ryan Dempster's mind tomorrow.