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Lou Piniella, This One's On You: Bullpen Mismanagement Sends Cubs To 4-3 Loss

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Was Lou sleeping in the dugout during the eighth inning? Or for that matter, for the entire game?

Let's reconstruct Carlos Marmol's disastrous eighth inning, in which he wound up walking in a run which gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead. He walked the leadoff hitter, Carlos Ruiz, then got Greg Dobbs and Jimmy Rollins on fairly deep fly balls. By that time he had thrown 13 pitches, only seven of them strikes.

Why wasn't John Grabow warming up right then, considering that after Shane Victorino, THREE tough lefthanded hitters were to follow? Lou has yanked pitchers in the past, well before they needed to be in some cases, for the platoon advantage. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez are three of the best LH hitters in the National League. But no one got up in the left-field bullpen.

Thus when Marmol hit Victorino (on a 1-2 pitch), no lefthander was ready to go.

Then when Marmol walked Utley, still no lefthander was ready to go.

So while Marmol was walking Howard to force in the tying run, only then did Grabow hurriedly get up and get ready. Too late, unfortunately; Grabow did come in after throwing only a handful of warmup pitches and struck out Ibanez, but the Phillies had the lead.

What if Grabow comes in to face Utley? Maybe he gets him and the game stays tied, and then Milton Bradley's clutch 9th-inning single wins it. It's possible, of course, that Brad Lidge isn't pitching in the 9th in a tie game, but maybe the Cubs win some other way. And incidentally, next time you complain about Kevin Gregg blowing saves, Lidge has seven of them this year, leading the major leagues and sports a ridiculous 7.36 ERA.

And at this point, Carlos Marmol can't be trusted in the eighth inning any more; he's got to be used only in low-leverage situations in blowouts. Give the eighth-inning job to Angel Guzman (who threw two solid innings last night).

I've got more, but there's too much to squeeze in here above the fold.

The Cubs lost to the Phillies in 12 innings 4-3, after Kevin Gregg gave up his MLB-leading (among relievers) 11th homer of the season. There's more Lou blame to lay: why was Aaron Miles in the game pinch-hitting for Guzman in the 10th inning? Miles came into the game 2-for-14 as a pinch-hitter. I'd have rather seen Koyie Hill up there. Or Aramis Ramirez -- seriously, if Ramirez isn't OK to pinch-hit in that situation, which called for him even though his shoulder is barking at him, he needs to go on the DL. It was laughable that Charlie Manuel felt he had to pull the right-handed Tyler Walker for Scott Eyre right there, because Manuel must have known Lou wouldn't call on Ramirez. Miles cooperated by swinging at Eyre's first pitch and grounding into a force play.

Can we take up a collection? I'd guess that by the end of this homestand, five more games, between the (approximately) 200,000 people who will come into Wrigley Field by Sunday, and everyone here at BCB, we could collect enough money to pay off the second year of Miles' contract, give the money to the Cubs, and then they could just release him. I'm not going to get into the "worst free-agent signing" debate about Miles, because clearly, the 25th man on the roster isn't going to make a difference in many games.

But he did last night, and the Cubs have to have five or six people in the minor league system who could play better just by accident. Andres Blanco is eligible to come off the disabled list next Wednesday (the 19th), and maybe then Jim Hendry can cut the cord on Miles.

All of this ruined an outstanding outing by Rich Harden, who retired the first sixteen batters he faced before walking Ruiz in the sixth, and then, one out later, giving up a no-doubt-about-it homer to Rollins that cut through the teeth of a pretty good wind blowing in. Here's another one on Lou: why wasn't Harden at least allowed to start the eighth inning? He did allow two more baserunners in the seventh, but had thrown only 87 pitches, and the bottom of the Phillies order was due up. Why not give Harden at least a chance to go eight?

It also spoiled another fine day from Milton Bradley, who had two hits, drove in the tying run in the ninth and gave the Cubs a shot at winning the game by stealing only his second base of the season when Derrek Lee struck out in that inning. If Jake Fox could have driven the ball just a bit farther past Victorino that inning, we'd be talking about a dramatic Cubs victory. Bradley also made three fine catches in right field, as Jack Brickhouse might have described them: "plucking the balls off the tops of tall blades of grass out there!" Bradley seems energized since moving to the #2 spot in the lineup -- keep up the good work, Milton.

The night also featured, for the second day in a row, an umpire-reviewed replay of an apparent home run, by Carlos Ruiz in the top of the ninth. Third base umpire Dale Scott signaled home run on a ball that was at least ten feet on the foul side of the left-field foul pole -- the fan who caught it was in section 101, clearly on the foul side of the line. The umpires, reviewing a HR call for the first time in Wrigley Field history, went through the Cubs dugout to watch replay, came back and correctly ruled it foul. Ruiz then grounded out.

Non-baseball incident of interest: about an hour before game time, a couple of men were arrested for allegedly selling counterfeit tickets outside the bleachers near the corner of Waveland and Kenmore. This arrest took no fewer than nine police cars and a police scooter, and a third man was talking to the police -- apparently, one of the men arrested had the third man's cellphone. This got the third man carted away, also.

Fortunately for the Cubs, all of the teams they are chasing in the division and wild-card races -- the Cardinals, Giants and Rockies -- also lost games at home last night (can someone explain to me how the Pirates can beat the Rockies in Denver, but the Cubs can't?). Thus, the Cubs lost no ground to any of them, and still trail by only three games in both races. There's still plenty of time to catch up.

But they had better start now, and the manager had better get his head on straight again.