Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Mr. 3000, Not Mr. 314
by Derek Smart
Rain delays that last nearly three hours before night games tend to put a cramp in my style, so while I lingered in wakefulness long enough to see The Professor reach yet another milestone, the fatigue brought on by daily life and the rigors of monkey-care felled me after the third inning.
Looks like I'm glad I let sleep win, as the Cubs failed to do so - in eleven innings, no less - taking a game that was already late well into the next morning, and dropping it by simply reversing the previous game's score of 3-2.
This has been a remarkable stretch of tight games for the Cubs, with three of the last five contests going into extras, four of them being tied going into the bottom of the ninth, and all within one run entering the final inning of regulation.
That the Cubs have managed to be so close in each of these games, winning three of them, certainly speaks well of the starting pitching they've received of late, but despite impressions to the contrary, the team has also gotten decent work out of the pen.
Although unable to hold on last night or in the first game of the Cardinals series, the work they've done as a group of late isn't half bad, posting a 2.35 ERA over the 15.1 innings they've thrown in that span.
They've allowed a few too many baserunners - 16 hits and 5 walks - but they've kept the ball in the park and kept things close, and in the two games they've been unfortunate enough to lose, one can point to opportunities the offense failed to convert as the primary culprit - leaving men on third with one out is becoming a running theme for this club - rather than any lack of competence from the relief corps. Pitchers allow runs, it's a fact of the game, and when the difference in a given contest is a skinny tally, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't.
That said, the imminent approach of a healthy Scott Williamson goes a long way toward giving me greater confidence that when the Cubs are engaged in these 3-2, 4-3 affairs, they'll be able to come out on top. His addition should go a long way toward making the opposition's game shorter and giving the Cubs a far better chance when the games are this close.
Don't get me wrong, I like Michael Wuertz, but if I were given a choice between him and a healthy Williamson with men on first and second and one out in a game tied in the 11th, I'd take Williamson in a heartbeat, and I believe, have a much better chance of getting through unscathed.
He won't be a savior, and there will still be times that the bullpen gives me the yips, but when Williamson joins the club, I believe his presence will bring one of those small adjustments in performance and attitude that seem to make a bigger difference the smaller the margin of error. The kind of adjustment that could have helped make Mr. 3000, Mr. 314, as well.