The Brewers executed a perfect squeeze bunt for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of their 4-3 win over the Cubs Tuesday night. It was the second straight night the Brewers had put together a successful squeeze. I wondered, "Why can't the Cubs do this?" I mean, the Cubs have an entire bunting tournament in spring training. Yes, I know, that's more a team-building exercise than actually practicing bunting. Still...
Sigh. Maybe next spring the Cubs will actually practice bunting situations instead of doing rah-rah team-building. Here's something about the Brewers' squeeze that puzzled me: the play was executed with one out. Checking the boxscore, I noticed Justin Grimm was credited with ⅔ of an inning. How could that be? When the run crosses the plate, the game should be over, right?
I watched the replay, painful as that was. Grimm actually threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo after the winning run had scored! What was the point of that? It had the effect of making the run unearned, because that "out" would have been the third out had Grimm not made a throwing error on a previous bunt attempt in the inning.
(Seriously, I'd like to know from people with scoring/rules experience: Isn't the game over immediately once the run scores? That out shouldn't have been recorded, should it?)
The Cubs had earlier overcome a 1-0 deficit primarily on the strength of a home run by Welington Castillo in the seventh inning. Castillo has had an excellent second half and is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. Over his last seven games he's 9-for-26 (.346/.393/.846) with four home runs and only two strikeouts.
Unfortunately, Jeff Samardzija, who had thrown six very good innings, couldn't stand the prosperity. He coughed the lead right back in the bottom of the seventh, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Gomez, his 20th (a career high). And why did Shark do that? A clue can be found here:
Manager Dale Sveum, who argued with pitcher Edwin Jackson after pulling him after four innings, confirmed that Samardzija and [David] Bell, the Cubs’ third base coach, were "screaming a bit on our strategy." In this case, it was the positioning of first baseman Anthony Rizzo in which Norichika Aoki hit a triple past him in the sixth inning. Samardzija went on to finish the inning to surpass the 200-inning mark without allowing Aoki to score but was still angry at Bell for the positioning of Rizzo.
Well then. We've seen this from Shark before, where something happens that throws him off his rhythm and his pitching immediately suffers. I certainly won't criticize Samardzija for being competitive -- you don't get to this level of professional sports without that -- but anyone who has such a disagreement has to, I mean has to, have the internal fortitude to immediately put it aside and calm down and perform. Shark doesn't seem to have the ability to do that and that might be one of the things preventing him from taking his game to the next level.
Beyond that, the Cubs' problem was the usual one, not generating enough offense. Besides Castillo's two hits and homer, the entire rest of the team had just five hits Tuesday night, and overall was 1-for-9 with RISP. Same old, same old.
The two teams will go at it again tonight. For some reason, I've decided to head up to Milwaukee to take it in. Perhaps the Cubs' play will be better, but I expect little. Chris Rusin will face Tyler Thornburg.