Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Little Bit of Everything Tonight Except a Win; Cubs Take 3-2 Victory in 12 Innings

AJ worked a fairly smooth first, giving up a Kyle Schwarber single and nothing else; Jake Arrieta cruised through the first three hitters. Kris Bryant opened the second with a ground rule double; Batman came back with a pair of whiffs and a routine 6-3 to leave him at second. JHK singled for the Bucs with one gone and was erased on a DP.

Dexter Fowler tripled with an out in the third; the ball was hit well toward The Notch, but Starling made a long run to get there, only to have the ball tick off his mitt. That was followed by a walk. An out later, a short wild pitch put Cubbies at second and third; but AJ danced out of another jam, getting Anthony Rizzo on a fly to Cutch. The bottom of the Buc order went down quietly.

Bryant started the fourth with a knock; he too was negated by a DP. Starling dropped a perfect bunt - and it had to be; Bryant made a nice play, but missed him by half a step. Marte stole second as Cutch K'ed and went to third on a misfire by Miguel Montero; he was that close to coming home when the ball skipped past third toward the railing, but Arrieta did his job and had the play backed. A-Ram drilled a liner to center, but it was an at 'em ball to end the frame. The fifth saw an exchange of singles with no damage caused.

Starling showed up tonight with two hits and a spectacular throw out at second
(photo: Charle LeClaire/USA Today)
With an out in the sixth, Rizzo singled and stole second without a throw after getting a huge jump. Bryant doubled him home, and then Montero singled him to third. That was it for Batman; Jared Hughes came on, and fell victim to a squeeze; the run score on Starlin Castro's bunt, but only after Jared made a bad throw to first to allow Bryant to score and leave Cubbies on first and second. After a K, Jake singled off JHK's glove to load the bases. Hughes went 3-2 on Fowler during a 10 pitch battle before getting him to ground out.

Gregory singled with two gone and swiped second. Starling tapped back to Arrieta; his lob went wayward; the Bucs  got a gift run on the error, but gave it back almost immediately as Marte was thrown out trying to get to second. He got a bad start to second, getting tangled up a bit with Rizzo, but no interference was called, so accept the gift and carry on...

Antonio Bastardo came in for the seventh and blew through the Cubs with a pair of punch outs. Arrieta has pitched Cutch mostly outside with the slider, against the usual grain, just changing levels, and it's worked - he whiffed for the third time to start the inning, and two grounders ended it.

Joe Blanton came on in the eighth. After an out, Montero reached on an infield single, stole second and reached third on Fran's misfire. An intentional walk after a huge whiff of Castro put runners at the corners to force Joe Maddon's hand on whether or not to let Arrieta bat. He let Jake up; the Bucs negated some of the advantage by allowing Javier Baez to stroll to second on defensive indifference, but Joe made it a moot point by K'ing Arrieta.

The Kid rolled Arrieta's 105th pitch toward first and hustled it out for an infield knock. P-Flo came in to run. On a hit-and-run, Fran singled to left; shortstop Baez was caught up watching P-Flo's break and that put Bucs on the corners. S-Rod ran for Fran and Josh pinch hit; the Bucs had the contact play on and the Cubs had the infield in; Florimon was nailed at home on Harrison's first-pitch bouncer to short. Montero probably blocked the dish (there was a nice little collision); the Bucs challenged and lost (it is a rule that badly needs revamped; maybe it should morph into a "slide-or-give-it-up" to put the onus on the runner.)

Pedro grabbed a stick and walked to load 'em up. Gregory had a chance to be a hero, and he did tie the game, by hitting into an inning-ending double play. El Coffee grounded out to second; they were looking for a 4-3-6 turn. But with the force removed, Petey got into a run down and stayed alive long enough for S-Rod to touch home. Actually, they never did get Pedro, picking off Josh trying to sneak in with the lead run. Send three guys home, one of them is bound to score, right?

Vanimal didn't have a triumphant return to PNC (photo Ron Foldy/Getty)
Mark the Shark came on in the ninth and worked a 1-2-3 frame. Pedro Strop took the ball for the Cubs and Starling greeted him with a single. But it led to nothing; Cutch flew out to left and A-Ram hit into the Bucs third DP of the night. This one was pure robbery by Castro, taking away a hit and turning two (A-Ram helped with a noticeable lack of energy going down the line.) Too bad Starling didn't have a green light to steal during the past pair of at-bats; things may have been a little different.

Tony Watson came in and walked Rizzo after a 10 pitch test of wills. Bryant hit into a force and then stole second, but a foul pop and a 3-0 fly out to fairly deep center left him stranded. Fernando Rodney took the ball. JHK lined out, Travis Snider whiffed swinging at balls four and five, and Michael Morse bounced out.

Joakim Soria climbed the mound for the 11th. With an out, Tommy La Stella singled; he tried to leg his way to second, and Starling said no, throwing him out with a strike from the left field corner. An out later, the Bucs got to the bat rack to face Hector Rondon. He got a pair of swinging bunts and a line out to left; the Bucs have banged several balls in that direction hard, but with no luck.

Vanimal joined the fray in the 12th and Chris Denorfia welcomed him with a single. Quinton Berry ran for him and jogged into second after a wild pitch.  Austin Jackson singled him to third; not a great return to the bigs by Vance so far. Starling came up with a sliding grab of Rizzo's bloop, but it became a sac fly to put the Cubs up 3-2. A bouncer moved the runner to second, but a pop left him there. The Bucs sent out the 2-3-4 hitters against Rondon. A-Ram singled with two away to keep the game alive, but JHK ended it.

Well, it was a game for the taking by both sides; great fielding, bad fielding, great running, bad running, manager's wheels turning, benches emptied and drama to the end, maybe hinging on the non-call at the plate in the eighth. But a loss is a loss; this would have been a great game to take home. 13 hours and they're at it again, with Charlie going against Kyle Hendricks in the getaway game.

  • Cutch had a day to forget - he went 0-for-5 with four whiffs to earn a golden sombrero. Maybe that rest metric the Bucs use should have noted that he played all 18 innings of both games yesterday. Then again, Arrieta, Strop and Rondon are pretty fair pitchers...
  • The Bucs used 24 players in the game, eight were pitchers.
  • St. Louis won tonight. The Pirates trail the Cardinals by four and lead the Cubs by three.
  • There were 31,945 fans at the ballyard.
  • Jake Arrieta still hasn't been beaten when Chicago scores with him on the hill. His losses have all been shutouts

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