Let's begin at the end of the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Dodgers Tuesday night at Wrigley Field:
I watched the replay of this play at the park on the video board. I watched it again several times after I got home, and again this morning. Chris Denorfia was safe. Here's a screenshot that appears to clearly show Denorfia's hand touching second base just before Enrique Hernandez' glove touched him in the chest.
After review, though -- the first one I can remember of the final play of a game at Wrigley Field -- the replay crew in New York said "call stands," and Denorfia was out and the game was over.
Joe Maddon disagreed, about as vehemently as I've seen him disagree about anything since he's become Cubs manager:
#Cubs Maddon upset call not overturned on Denorfia that ended game. Says "might be the worst non overturn I've seen at this point"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 25, 2015
#Cubs Maddon: "To say there was nothing definitive right there, I could not disagree more strongly"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 25, 2015
Maddon continued, saying that MLB ought to use "arbitrators," instead of umpires, for review and then asked for... "nerds":
Says Maddon: "I think you should get a bunch of nerds back there who know how to look at the video tape and then come to a conclusion" #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 25, 2015
Well. I've got to agree with that. While I think umpires should be involved, I spent nearly 30 years in the television business. Analyzing video is a different skill than calling plays live on a baseball field. Having a combination of baseball umpires and video experts isn't a bad idea, and it's something perhaps MLB could explore as they continue to tweak the replay-review system.
Having said all that, Denorfia took an unnecessary chance, with two out in the ninth and his team down three runs, and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant due up next. Denorfia's hit banged of the metal doors in left field directly to Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke. Van Slyke fired an accurate throw to Hernandez, who applied the tag -- late, in my opinion, on time, in the opinion of those whose opinion mattered. After the game, Denorfia agreed he shouldn't have tried for second:
"I have that play right in front of me," Denorfia said. "I can see it when I’m at first. I was already committed. It wasn’t smart baseball."
On the broadcast, Jim Deshaies said he'd have loved that aggressiveness if it had been a one-run game, and I concur. Three runs down? Stay on first base and let the power hitters have a shot at it. Incidentally, if it looked strange watching the two umpires on the headsets, where one looked like a little kid standing next to the other, that's because Jordan Baker, the second-base umpire who made the call, is the tallest umpire in major-league history at six-foot-seven.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks wasn't happy with his performance:
"I thought I was turning it around there for a little bit," Hendricks said after lasting only five innings. "But my last two starts, I'm giving myself zero chance to win, which is pathetic. I have to do something different."
Hendricks wasn't awful, in my view. He struck out three and got eight ground-ball outs. Unfortunately, two of his mistake pitches wound up in the seats, home runs by Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner, the latter with two men on, and that three-run shot was the difference in the game. The Dodgers bullpen did a good job of shutting the Cubs down, giving them just three hits and a pair of walks over the last 4⅓ innings.
The Cubs bullpen did all right, too... except for Edwin Jackson. And this really wasn't Jackson's fault, since the situation didn't really call for him to be in the game in the first place. Justin Grimm had been throwing well; he had two out and a runner on second base with Joc Pederson due up in the eighth, with the score still 4-2 Dodgers.
I didn't understand the use of Jackson at all. It had been 10 days since Jackson had pitched in anything resembling a high-leverage situation, the 10th inning against the Reds June 14, and that time he came in to start an inning.
If you're going to take Grimm out of the game for someone to face the lefthanded-hitting Pederson, where's Zac Rosscup? Rosscup hadn't pitched in eight days. Why? If he's injured get him on the disabled list. If not, why isn't he in the game in that situation?
Before Wednesday night, Jackson had allowed three of nine inherited runners to score this year. Make that four of 10 after Pederson poked a single through the right side, scoring Van Slyke. This isn't a "Jackson must go" plea. It's simply a call to use pitchers in the situation they're called for.
There is one thing that felt different about this game as compared to similar games in recent years. If last year's Cubs, for example, or the 2013 version, had gone down 4-2 and then given up a late-inning run, we'd have probably thought, "Oh, well. This one's over." I don't feel that way about this year's club; I had the sense even after that fifth Dodger run that they could rally and come back. They didn't, but just the fact that it feels like they could have tells you something about the resilience of the 2015 Cubs. That's a very good thing.
Despite dire forecasts of more storms and heavy rain in the area, it never really rained at the ballpark Wednesday night, just some light sprinkles that weren't even enough to deploy my umbrella, and eventually the showers cleared the area, producing this pretty sunset over Wrigley:
The Cubs still have a chance to win this series Thursday afternoon, once again, weather permitting, in the only 1:20 p.m. start at Wrigley the entire month of June. Jon Lester gets the call for the Cubs, Carlos Frias for the Dodgers.