We have had this discussion before, but I’m going to bring it up again because something that happened in the Cubs’ 6-4 loss to the Diamondbacks made me again realize how much I truly hate the three-batter minimum rule.
Situation: Game tied, bottom of the seventh. Dan Winkler has entered the game to pitch for the Cubs. He walked the first batter he faced, Eduardo Escobar, and his pitches were all over the place:
Then Winkler hit Christian Walker on a full-count pitch — again, look where these pitches are:
So, you’d think a manager would want to get this guy out of the game at this point. But he can’t, because by rule Winkler now has to face one more hitter. Winkler did retire that hitter, but then threw a wild pitch, advancing the runners. Meanwhile, after running a 2-0 count on Pavin Smith, David Ross elected to intentionally pass him. A little dribbler scored a run, and Rex Brothers entered and wild-pitched another run in.
Does this game end differently if Ross could have yanked Winkler after two hitters? Maybe it does after the Cubs put together a ninth-inning rally, because then maybe Brothers isn’t in the game to serve up a two-run homer to Escobar in the eighth.
In any case, I don’t like the idea of taking pitching decisions out of the manager’s hands. The idea, presumably, is to save time by reducing the number of pitching changes in games. Yeah, that’s worked well, the average length of a game has continued to edge up over the last couple of years, now at 3:16:
(You’ll note the times continue to climb even after all of Rob Manfred’s pace-of-play rule changes, which have had pretty much zero effect.)
Even before Winkler and Brothers entered the tie game and seemingly walked everyone in sight, Cubs pitchers had allowed seven hits and seven walks, and only due to a couple of double plays and general D-backs incompetence was the score tied going into the bottom of the seventh. Arizona left 11 men on base, meaning they could have run the score even higher.
The Cubs did score some runs in this game so let’s look at them. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Robinson Chirinos hit a ball that was very close to a home run, but wound up bouncing over the fence for an automatic double.
The Cubs tried for yet another come-from-behind rally in the ninth. KB led off with a double and Javy drove him in again [VIDEO].
Two outs later, after Javy had taken third, one of Saturday’s heroes,Rafael Ortega batted for Jake Marisnick. He ran a full count and... came through again. Saturday he doubled into the right-field corner. This time Ortega hit his double down the left-field line [VIDEO].
And then Willson Contreras, who hadn’t started this game, was sent up to bat for Brothers.
Could he be the home-run hero again?
Willson ran the count full off D-backs closer Joakim Soria, and then Soria hung a slider right down the middle that Willson could probably have hit halfway to Flagstaff, but Contreras was fooled and took it for a game-ending strike three.
Like the headline says: Oh, well. All told Cubs pitchers gave Arizona eight hits and 11 walks and another runner by HBP and it’s really hard to win games when you do that.
So, the Cubs took two of three from the D-backs, which... is just about the percentage Arizona’s been playing to at home, as they entered this series 15-28 at Chase Field. Thus you could say this set went just about as expected. The Cubs will get another chance at these guys this coming weekend at Wrigley Field. The D-backs are 11-38 on the road and 2-30 away from Chase Field (one win in San Diego, one in Los Angeles) since Madison Bumgarner threw that seven-inning “not a no-hitter” in late April. As you perhaps recall, Arizona lost a major-league record 24 straight road games after that.
The Cubs head to St. Louis for a four-game set against the Cardinals, beginning Monday evening at 7:15 p.m. CT. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Jake Woodford is the scheduled starter for the Cards. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network and the game is also being carried by ESPN, on a full national broadcast (no blackouts).
The three-batter minimum rule for pitchers...
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