This one, I'm putting on Lou.
Yes, there were plenty of player failures in today's 4-3 Cubs loss to the Brewers, but some of the decisions by Lou Piniella today were mind-boggling.
He finally let Sean Marshall pitch -- great, since he's not scheduled to start till next Thursday. But then, he yanked him after one batter. Having also let Neal Cotts play the LOOGY today, that left Lou plenty short had the game gone into extra innings (only Angel Guzman and David Patton were left).
But to me, the most mystifying decisions made were in the Brewers' disastrous ninth inning -- why wasn't he issuing intentional walks once Rickie Weeks' double scored the tying run? Why would you ever want to face Corey Hart and Ryan Braun in a potential game-winning situation? Len and Bob complained on the air that the winning play, the grounder to Ryan Theriot that Theriot threw home in an unsuccessful attempt to get Weeks (and despite Koyie Hill's theatrics, there's no question Weeks was safe), should have been an attempted DP by Scrappy-Doo. However, Theriot was moving away from second base as he fielded the ball and I don't think there's any way a relay throw would have beaten Ryan Braun to first base -- then, Weeks scores anyway.
But if you walk Braun to load the bases -- a no-brainer, to me, since only the runner on third meant anything -- then, if you get a ground ball in the infield, Prince Fielder is an easy double play. (Also, the IF wasn't playing at DP depth with Braun batting.)
Here's something that wasn't Lou's fault: Kevin Gregg issued two unintentional walks in the ninth. This is something I was worried about the minute the Cubs got Gregg and I figured he might close -- too many walks, 37 of them in 68.2 innings with the Marlins last year. Today, they came back to bite the Cubs after they had fashioned a 3-2 lead on the back of Hill, who smacked a two-run homer in the sixth, following Milton Bradley's first homer (and first hit) as a Cub in the fourth. Hill's homer was only the fourth in his major league career (240 AB through today's game), and perhaps the Cubs won't miss Geo too much through the Milwaukee series.
The ninth-inning meltdown ruined a fine start by Rich Harden, who struck out ten Brewers in six innings, throwing a fine 63 strikes in 96 pitches. Harden was also the victim of bad Cubs play, when Theriot threw away an easy ground ball to lead off the game by Weeks, which led to an unearned run. Maybe we're talking about a victory tonight if Theriot makes that play. Other than that, the only real damage off Harden was Hart's solo homer in the third. Good news: Luis Vizcaino threw well in relief today; if he can keep this up, maybe the middle ranks of the bullpen will be more solid than we think.
But it was those walks that eventually helped lead to the Cubs' demise today. Cubs hitters drew seven walks: good. Cubs pitchers allowed seven walks: bad. The fourteen free passes led to the game's seemingly agonizing length of three hours and thirteen minutes.
Too bad there wasn't one more intentional walk. Maybe that would have turned defeat into victory. The Cubs do still have a chance to win the series, of course, on the back of Carlos Zambrano tomorrow night; he'll face the Brewers' Dave Bush (one of the Cubs' favorite punching bags: they are 7-1 lifetime against him) at 6:05 CDT.