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David DeJesus Heroics Not Enough, Cubs Bullpen Fails Again


So much happened in Friday night's Cubs game that I know I'm probably going to leave something out in this recap. So be it. If I miss something important, bring it up in the comments.

The Cubs lost to the Brewers 8-7 in 13 innings.

Those are the basic facts. What made this loss particularly galling is that the Cubs blew leads in both the seventh and ninth innings -- and a two-run lead in the ninth, at that.

Maybe the best place to start is the beginning. Matt Garza -- by the time this one ended it seemed like about a week since he started -- struggled through five innings, walking five, failing to lay down a bunt (again) and making a ridiculously bad throw (again).

All the bunting tournaments and all the fielding practice in the world apparently aren't going to help Garza. He's just not very good at either of them. Still, after getting out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the first inning by allowing just one run, Garza left trailing only 1-0.

David DeJesus, who didn't start against lefthander Randy Wolf, came up to pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and hit reliever Kameron Loe's first pitch for a no-doubt-about-it grand slam. It was his first career PH homer and his first homer as a Cub.

Great, right? Stirring comeback, emotional win, out of last place...

Not so fast. Carlos Marmol came into the game and as has been common for him this year, he couldn't throw strikes. Still, it wasn't until after Marmol left the game with a reported hamstring injury that Michael Bowden gave up a bases-clearing double that gave the Brewers the lead back at 5-4.

I don't like seeing any baseball player injured. But if Marmol has to now spend time on the disabled list -- and I would be absolutely shocked if the Cubs didn't DL him -- the team can recall Scott Maine from Iowa, to give them a second lefthander in the pen that they badly need, and not only that, another effective reliever, because they're really down to just three.

That's right. As of now, Shawn Camp, James Russell and Rafael Dolis are the only effective relievers in the Cubs' bullpen. Marmol has thrown 280 pitches this season. Only 151, barely more than half, have been strikes. Bowden has been ineffective; he was responsible for the other two runs in the Brewers' four-run seventh. Kerry Wood... well, we've talked about him, more in a moment, and Lendy Castillo...

DeJesus struck again in the ninth inning, smacking a run-scoring triple that appeared to put the game away. But Dolis was ineffective in his second inning of work, walking Aramis Ramirez and giving up a game-tying home run to Corey Hart. Now Dolis, after having thrown 41 pitches, is probably unavailable Saturday.

This is one of the reasons I don't understand modern bullpen usage. When you get into long extra-inning games like this one, you run a very high risk of running out of pitchers, as both teams had done by the 13th inning. If you're going to have a seven-man bullpen, it's clear to me that at least one of those guys has to be able to pitch competently for more than two innings. Or just go to one of your other starting pitchers and figure things out later, if you're trying to win. What would either team have done if the game had gone to the 14th? They had both run out of position players, too. The Brewers used starting pitcher Zack Greinke as a pinch-hitter (he hit into a double play) and if the game had continued, Jeff Samardzija might have been sent up to hit. Welington Castillo wound up at first base, a position he had played exactly once before in his professional career -- in 2006 in the Arizona Rookie League.

It is, unfortunately, something that cries out for the DH to be used in the NL; I've never liked the DH but maybe it's time. That, and seeing Matt Garza try to hit. Or maybe have 26-man rosters. Something, because seeing extra innings played like this isn't good baseball.

The game slogged on. Both teams had men on in every half-inning in extras, many left in scoring position. Kerry Wood looked lost on the mound at first... and then managed to induce the double-play ball from Greinke to get out of the 11th. After that, he seemed to be more confident; he did issue one more walk, in the 12th, but got out of that inning unscathed. Wood looked better Friday night. Maybe that's a sign that he can still pitch after all.

And then Lendy Castillo came into the game.

Can we declare this experiment over? Stash him on the DL. Figure out a trade with the Phillies. Do something. Because Castillo simply cannot throw strikes. He hit two batters -- Ryan Braun flipping his bat out of the way like a petulant little child after he was hit in the back.

Right, Ryan. Because Lendy is trying to hit you with a runner already on base in the bottom of the 13th inning.

One hit batter, I could understand. After the second one, I knew the game was going to be over soon, and two soft singles later, it was.

There's one more thing, and then I think I've covered just about everything from this monstrosity of a game where 14 of the 15 runs scored after the seventh inning. Cubs pitchers walked 14 hitters. That's just one short of the team record, which was set May 15, 1962 in a 13-inning game against the Mets.

That's not a good omen. The '62 Mets were awful, but the '62 Cubs weren't much better. Hopefully, that's not a sign for this year's Cubs.

The game ended less than 12 hours before today's game is going to begin. The players must be exhausted. I wouldn't be surprised to see Saturday's game end up 1-0. The game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CDT.