The Cubs hit three home runs Saturday! Good news, right?
Well... sort of. It's just the fourth time this year that the Cubs have hit three home runs in a game. They won the other three, but this time, all three home runs were solo shots. That, as you can imagine, doesn't lead to victory very often, and it didn't Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, as the Phillies evened up the series with a 7-4 win over the Cubs.
I was glad to see Mike Olt and Justin Ruggiano, two hitters known for mashing lefthanders, hit homers off a righthander, rookie David Buchanan. Luis Valbuena added a solo shot in the fourth inning that made it 4-3 Phillies and it looked as if the Cubs might be able to come back and win this one.
But then... Edwin Jackson. You know, the guy who appears to have no game plan, no idea of what he's doing on the mound, someone who throws at a glacial pace and who could lose focus at any time. This time, the loss of focus could have been Jimmy Rollins' single leading off the bottom of the fifth. This hit was the 2,235th of Rollins' career, and it broke the all-time Phillies franchise record for career hits, which had been held by Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Schmidt, who was watching from the Phillies dugout, came onto the field for a brief ceremony honoring this achievement.
Did the delay affect Jackson? Well... maybe. Jackson did retire the next two hitters, but then Rollins stole second and Marlon Byrd walked. Byrd actually walked twice, since the pitch that was called strike two was shown on the telecast to probably have been inside. By this time, Jackson had thrown 90 pitches. Yes, 90 pitches to record 14 outs. Five pitches later, Domonic Brown, who has been in a season-long slump, launched a Jackson fastball into the seats in right field for a three-run homer and that, as they say, was that.
It was around this time that Len Kasper said something on the CSN broadcast that astounded me. He said that some Cubs relievers were "not available" Saturday afternoon.
Really? Really? You've got eight relievers and there are some not available? It's not like most of these guys are overworked. I understand Neil Ramirez not being available after a 26-pitch ninth inning Friday night, but the rest of the pen should have been fairly well-rested.
You all know how I feel about an eight-man pen, and I thought I'd check around to see how many other teams are using one. The answer is five (Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Indians). That runs the gamut from division leaders to last-place teams, and I have no way of knowing how long these teams have been going with those bigger bullpens. I do know that for the Cubs, it's been almost the whole season. After Ruggiano was injured April 23, he was placed on the DL and Blake Parker optioned to Iowa the next day, and two pitchers were recalled: Zac Rosscup and Ramirez. The Cubs have had eight relievers since then, so they had 21 games with a seven-man pen and have played 45 since then (through today) with eight relievers.
Too many. I can understand an extra reliever for a few days, but for a month and a half?
Also, in looking up other teams' pitching staffs, I discovered the Pirates (as of today) are carrying only six relievers. I'd love to see teams go back to that, but I guess that's a thing of the past -- Pittsburgh is the only team doing that at this time.
And about Edwin Jackson, "inning eater" -- he's not. This is the eighth time in his 14 starts that he has failed to go six innings. Put it another way: there are, including Jackson, 25 major-league starters who have 14 or more starts this year. Only four of them (Jorge de la Rosa, Francisco Liriano, Tim Lincecum and Eric Stults) have thrown fewer innings than Jackson, and Liriano's a special case because he left his last start with an injury.
So it was nice to see the home runs from the Cubs Saturday afternoon, but they would have been nicer with runners on base. They managed another run, on a Valbuena RBI single in the eighth, but it wasn't enough. Jonathan Papelbon finished up for his 15th save.
Sunday, they will try yet again to win a road series, something they haven't done since last September 9-10-11 at Cincinnati. Travis Wood will face old Cubs nemesis A.J. Burnett.