Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Game of the Day (7/29/14)

Cubs 4, Rockies 3 (16). Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa is a solid veteran pitcher, at least when he's healthy enough to take the mound. Chicago's Edwin Jackson is a veteran pitcher who is sadly always healthy enough to take the mound.

The Rockies jumped on Jackson early; Corey Dickerson singled with one out in the first, Nolan Arenado doubled him home, Carlos Gonzalez walked, and Justin Morneau doubled as well to make it a 3-0 lead. Chicago replied with a run in the bottom of the inning on an Emilio Bonifacio double and singles by Arismendy Alcantara and Anthony Rizzo; the last of the three hits drove in the run and put the Cubs in excellent position, with runners at the corners and nobody out. But de la Rosa rallied with a foulout, a strikeout, and a lineout to strand both runners.

Jackson walked Charlie Blackmon and allowed a Dickerson double in the second, but left both runners on. Singles by Junior Lake and Bonifacio and a plunking of Alcantara loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, but Rizzo grounded out to strand all three men. Willin Rosario singled and took second on a wild pitch in the third, while de la Rosa was spotless in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the fourth, Blackmon singled and stole second, then saw Dickerson walk behind him before being stranded.

Lake was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the fourth. One out later, Jackson was pulled for a pinch hitter - Travis Wood, one of his fellow members of the starting rotation. Wood flied out, but Bonifacio followed with a game-tying two-run homer. Carlos Villanueva relieved Jackson and calmed the Rockie offense, hitting DJ LeMahieu in the top of the sixth but allowing no other baserunners through his 2.2 innings. De la Rosa kept the bases clear of Cubs in the fifth and sixth, and Villanueva got the first two outs of the seventh before Wesley Wright replaced him. Wright allowed a Gonzalez single, threw a wild pitch, and walked Morneau before Rosario grounded out to strand both runners.

Tommy Kahnle was spotless in the bottom of the seventh, and Justin Grimm matched that effort in the top of the eighth. Adam Ottavino allowed a leadoff hit to Starlin Castro in the home eighth, but left him at first. Brian Schlitter worked around a two-out Arenado walk in the ninth; Boone Logan had a slightly more involved bottom of the inning, allowing a pinch single to Chris Coghlan and walking Alcantara before retiring Rizzo to force extras.

Blake Parker took the mound in the tenth and walked Morneau to start the inning, then allowed a one-out double to Charlie Culberson, moving Morneau to third. With LeMahieu at the plate, Morneau was then caught stealing home on a busted squeeze play (which isn't quite as fun as a straight steal attempt, but has the virtue of making some semblance of sense). Castro greeted Matt Belisle with a single in the bottom of the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice before Belisle and Rex Brothers combined to strand him. Parker was spotless in the eleventh, and Brothers worked around a Bonifacio single.

James Russell came in for a perfect top of the twelfth. Brothers walked Rizzo to start the bottom of the inning, but Nick Masset relieved and coaxed a double play from Castro. Russell gave up a Rosario single in the thirteenth, but nothing else. The Cubs threatened in the bottom of the inning when Welington Castillo and Luis Valbuena started with walks, but Masset struck out the next three hitters, one of whom was Jake Arrieta - the second Cub pitcher to pinch hit on the day. Arrieta's K was naturally of the missed bunt variety.

Pedro Strop and LaTroy Hawkins exchanged 1-2-3 fourteenths. Strop walked Morneau in the fifteenth, but induced a double play from Rosario; Hawkins allowed a two-out Valbuena double and stranded him immediately afterward.

At this point, having exhausted their bullpen, the Cubs turned to backup catcher John Baker for his big league pitching debut. He induced a foulout from Culberson, walked Drew Stubbs, and then induced a double play from Cristhian Adames to end the inning. And if that wasn't enough, Baker then drew a leadoff walk from Tyler Matzek, moved to second on a bunt and third on a Rizzo single, and scored the winning run on a flyout by Castro.

In four innings, Edwin Jackson allowed nine baserunners and three runs. In twelve innings, the Cub bullpen (and John Baker) allowed nine baserunners and no runs. It's enough to make you think the Cubs should just designate Jackson's remaining starts this year as games in which relievers are used for all nine innings in random order, and Jackson is only summoned in case of extras.

But enough about Edwin Jackson and the 12-inning shutout his teammates assembled after he was pulled. Let's briefly touch on Emilio Bonifaco's four-hit, double-and-homer, two-run, two-RBI performance that kept the Cubs in the game to begin with, and also mention the fact that WPL ranks this as the eighth-best game of 2014 so far, giving it a 7.23.

And then let's move on to the best part. John Baker, a position player, was the winning pitcher. Not only that, but he also scored the winning run while in the game as a pitcher. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess we haven't seen that particular combination of events for a while.

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