Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
On Time Delivery
by Derek Smart
The Cubs needed great work out of Sean Marshall last night, both for the chance to win, and to rest the weary bullpen, and Sean delivered as ordered, going 7.1 innings and only giving up one run before clearly tiring. In fact, he looked beat while giving up the run in the seventh, and despite the good work he'd done to that point and his relatively low pitch count, I was surprised to see him back out there in the eighth.
Perhaps it speaks to some desperation for innings on Dusty's part, but I don't think so. Seems to me, it was a show of confidence, and a well-earned show at that. Marshall was more in control of last night's game than he's been in any other game this year, giving up only one or two hard hit balls all night. I don't know how much longer he'll be able to continue this run of excellent work, but he seems smart enough to make adjustments, so I'd say there's hope, which is all we can ask for at the moment.
Aramis looks bad out there. Actually, that's not specific enough: he looks horrible at the plate. In the field, he's still moving very well and seems far more comfortable than he has since he's been a Cub (he has yet to commit an error, and while it's still very early, his RATE is 119, meaning that his current defensive play would be expected to save 19 runs above average over 100 games, which is mighty impressive). At the dish, though, he looks completely lost.
I'm not sure if he's trying to do too much, his timing's off, he's not seeing the ball well, or some combination of those and other factors, but as we've seen in the last few games, with the offense configured as it is, his bat is critical. Good Aramis in the middle of the order equals a mediocre offense; bad Aramis in there equals a horror show, and Maddux and Marshall can only pitch every fifth day.
I love how Ronnie Cedeno goes the opposite way. He practically looks for pitches on the outer black that he can poke up the line, and it's a skill he's obviously cultivated. It's a particularly nice feature for someone hitting in the two-hole to have, since that ability makes him an easy guy to hit and run with.
Still, what I'm waiting for is the day when the National League figures out that Ronnie wants them to throw out there, and instead starts busting him hard inside. When that starts happening, it'll be Cedeno's first opportunity to make a big adjustment, and our chance to see how much of the good we're seeing now can be expected to continue into the future.
People Jacque Jones owes something to in descending order of importance:
Jack Wilson - his error (scored a hit) in the eighth kept the inning alive for Matt Murton. He gets a coke.
Matt Murton - his RBI single gave the Cubs the lead, and eventually the victory. He gets a steak.
Sean Marshall - his fine performance made the most out of slim pickings from his offense. He gets a freakin' car.
Honorable Mention: Victor Santos, for his first inning error; Bob Howry and Ryan Dempster for shutting the Pirates down late; and Juan Pierre and Ronny Cedeno for being fast and stuff.
Now, I say all this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because there's no guarantee that if Jones had not been doubled up in the fourth the Cubs would have scored - it may have been bases loaded, one out if he hadn't strayed, but it still would have been Sean Marshall and Juan Pierre coming to the plate next.
That said, had the Cubs lost the game, particularly if they'd gone down by a single run, Jones would have been the goat, deserving or not, simply by virtue of having made the most obvious mistake and already being the fans' designated whipping boy. Therefore, for having been spared the opprobrium of the faithful, he owes, and owes big.
The offense needs to get cracking today, especially since Angel Guzman's contribution is a wildcard at best. A victory today means a winning homestand, and a loss means a .500 one, so there's a little extra at stake with a long road trip on the horizon.