The following sequence of tweets pretty much sums up the situation of Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, and how his performance Tuesday night makes Dale Sveum's decision on who to move to the bullpen when Matt Garza returns that much easier:
#Cubs Carlos Villanueva says he isn't thinking about possible move to pen. But adds, "A night like tonight didn't help my cause."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 15, 2013
#Cubs Villanueva on Garza: "I'm the 1st one who asks how he feels every day. He will improve our ballclub once he comes back." MORE— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 15, 2013
Villanueva: "If I worry about him coming back, if I worry about somebody else's performance ... then I'm not focused on thetask at hand"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 15, 2013
Give Villanueva credit. He seems like a standup guy. But when you give up 12 hits in five innings and put your team in a 7-0 hole, you're not making your case to stay in the rotation very well. Carlos Gonzalez went 5-for-5 (the first such game of his career), including two home runs, and the Cubs lost to the Rockies 9-4, evening up their series at one game each.
The wind was blowing out -- some -- Tuesday night on a much warmer evening (70 degrees at game time, compared to 49 Monday), but that wasn't really the issue with Villanueva's pitching. Eric Young Jr. also hit a home run off the Cubs starter, and that one needed no help from the wind; it bounced off the batter's eye suite in center field and into the center-field bleachers, a shot of some 430 feet.
The Cubs, meanwhile, did almost nothing with the funky delivery style of Rox lefty Jeff Francis; they got just three hits off him in six innings. One of those hits was a home run by Darwin Barney, who had three hits overall. That's a good thing; maybe Barney is finally coming out of his season-long slump. He raised his batting average 27 points and his slugging percentage 69 points; his OPS went from an awful .542 to a "hey, maybe this can work after all" .630 level.
Another management decision that might have been made easier Tuesday night was, "Who's going to have to go off the roster when Garza comes back?" Shawn Camp gave up CarGo's second home run in the ninth inning, and two more hits and a sac fly gave the Rox their final run. If not for that, the Cubs might have made a run at the game in the bottom of the ninth; they scored a pair of runs in the eighth as a result of some atrocious Colorado defense. Young, in right field, dropped an easy fly ball hit by Starlin Castro, scoring one run, and then reliever Edgmer Escalona threw a potential double-play ball into center field. That eventually led to another run. Down 7-3 in the ninth, the Cubs might have had a shot at it; down 9-3, the run they scored on a pair of doubles was just a consolation. The first of those doubles, by Welington Castillo, could have also been ruled an error; CarGo caught up to it on the run in left-center, then dropped it. The Cubs' three doubles gave them 90 for the season.
Anyway, I'd guess that Camp will be gone when Garza comes back, which now might take a bit longer:
"After Thursday I’ll make a decision," Garza said. "They want me to get stretched out a little deeper into games, and I guess that’s what I’ll have to do now." Garza will have to be able to go six innings for him to be ready to pitch in the majors. If not, he will have one more rehab start.
Garza's start will be at Triple-A Iowa, Thursday night against Tucson, and the article seems to indicate that if Garza can go six in that game, activation could come next; otherwise, he might have to make one more rehab start. This is like spring training for Garza, so you can see why they want him stretched out.
The article also states that the team "might" consider a six-man rotation for a time after Garza's return, but after Tuesday, the more logical move is Villanueva to the bullpen, Camp to the DFA list.
For those of you expecting me to write more about Scott Hairston and his 0-for-4, sorry, I'm going to disappoint you. You already know how I feel about his performance this year; there's really nothing to add.
The nice night brought a late-arriving crowd that was still filing in almost an hour after game time, though it was still not nearly as many as the announced number (38,123). The clubs will go at it again in the rubber match of the series Wednesday night; Jeff Samardzija will face Jon Garland.