The way the Cubs played in the 9th inning Friday against the Brewers, you could’ve sworn it was a playoff game. And if you’ve watched the Cubs play a playoff game lately you know that last statement was not a compliment. Saying this team handles big, decisive game situations poorly would be an understatement. They often flat-out lay eggs, as they did yesterday after taking a 3-2 lead into the 9th against Milwaukee.
Where do we start in dissecting that debacle? Let’s first zero in on the new “closer” Kevin Gregg. To say Mr. Gregg has been less than impressive so far would be like saying the crash of the Hindenburg was a bit of a bummer. Granted, that was just Gregg’s first blown save of the year…but that’s only cause it’s still early. A 1-for-2 save record and a 13.50 ERA after three appearances is not encouraging by any measure (and yes, I know ERA isn’t supposed to matter for closers). But it’s not just the numbers, it’s the particulars. Yesterday, Gregg coughed up the lead by walking Chris Duffy, then giving up a double to Ricky Weeks on a pitch pretty much right down the middle. Gregg then recovered by wild pitching Weeks to second and walking Corey Hart (irrelevant since the winning run was already on third). I realize it’s a big rivalry game against the Brewers and the stadium’s packed and everything, but for Gregg to look so jittery in April is just beyond absurd. I guess we know now why he blew all those saves in Florida.
Of course Gregg still could’ve gotten out of the inning without losing the game – and might have done so except that, for some reason, Ryan Theriot, who was playing back at short, decided to throw to the plate after Ryan Braun‘s apparently tailor-made double-play ball. Theriot’s throw was too late to get Ricky Weeks – yes Koyie Hill, he was safe, your temper tantrum aside – and the Brewers won the game 4-3. The entire 9th inning was executed so shoddily, from Gregg’s pitching to Theriot’s fielding gaffe, that, like I said before, you could’ve sworn it was October and not April.
It was an all-around terrible day in the field for Theriot, who also got an error on a high throw to first (that Derrek Lee looked like he should’ve gotten anyway), and missed a pop-fly in left that he looked like he should’ve peeled off and let Alfonso Soriano have. Of course, Ryan also went 2-3 at the plate, including a double off the wall – the closest he may come all year to a homer – so calls for his immediate shipment to Iowa might be a tad premature. On the plus side: Rich Harden looked solid in his start, going 6 innings and allowing only 1 earned run on 3 hits while striking out 10. Also encouraging: Kosuke Fukudome‘s 2-5 day, and Mike Fontenot‘s 2-4. And Koyie Hill – who needs to learn to be less demonstrative with umps, especially when he’s wrong – slammed his first homer of the year, somewhat calming our fears that, with Geovany Soto out, the catching position will become an offensive black hole.
Time for the old “let’s get ’em next time, boys.”