Through the first four innings of the Cubs-Brewers game on a freezing Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, it felt like the Cubs had absolutely no chance to win the game. They (once again) couldn't do anything at the plate, they made two awful throwing errors that were a part of a three-run Brewers second inning, and they of course had lost their last four games.
But, incredibly (in my opinion, anyway), the Cubs scored the game's final six runs after not scoring any through the fourth inning, and got a nice 6-3 win over their division rivals. The win improved the Cubs' record to 3-5.
The Cubs got their scoring started on an RBI groundout by Anthony Rizzo in the fifth, and got another run on an RBI groundout from Starlin Castro in the seventh. Following that Castro at-bat, Rizzo laced a pitch from Brewers left-hander Mike Gonzalez for a two-out RBI double to tie the game at 3-3. And in terms of things that were unexpected in the game, that Rizzo double was right up there, as the Cubs' first baseman came into the game 0-6 with five strikeouts on the season against lefties, and a .191 batting average and .588 OPS against lefties in his career (although that's of course a young one). I've tweeted a bit recently about my concerns in regards to him against lefties, so hopefully that will get him going. Because the Cubs are going to need a lot more than a .600-ish OPS from their No. 3 hitter against left-handed pitching if they're going to play him everyday.
The eighth inning was the Cubs' most productive inning at the plate so far this season. Nate Schierholtz led off the inning with a double, Welington Castillo sacrifice bunted to move Schierholtz to third, pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro walked, and another pinch-hitter in Scott Hairston then hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score Schierholtz for the go-ahead run. David DeJesus then followed with a two-run single for his third straight hit of the game, and to give the Cubs six runs in the game, which is sadly their highest amount of runs scored in a game so far this season (and that's of course only through eight games, but still... not good).
As for the pitching side of things for the Cubs in this game, Travis Wood followed up his tremendous performance against the Pirates last week (6 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs) with another solid outing. The 26-year-old southpaw went 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits, two earned runs, and three walks, while striking out six. He didn't get credit for the win, but he was very impressive again. If he keeps pitching anything like this, he's going to be a damn fine No. 4-5 starter for the Cubs.
The pitcher that was credited with the win for the Cubs? Carlos Marmol. After Sveum said on Monday that he plans to use Marmol mainly when the Cubs are trailing as the right-hander works to get his confidence back/regain form, Sveum surprisingly put Marmol in for the eighth inning with the game tied at 3-3. And Marmol responded well, throwing a scoreless inning, although he would've given up a run if Castro didn't make a spectacular diving stop and throw to end the inning.
Marmol's replacement in the closer's role, Kyuji Fujikawa, had his first outing as the Cubs' official closer in the ninth inning, and threw a scoreless inning for the save.
Let's go to the bullets for notable things from Tuesday night for the Cubs...
- Although the eighth inning ended up being a great one for the Cubs at the plate, I didn't like how Dale Sveum managed it. After Nate Schierholtz led off the inning with a double, Sveum chose to have Welington Castillo bunt. Castillo is 8 for 21 (.381) on the year with a 1.028 OPS. He's the team's hottest hitter. Yet Sveum chose to have Castillo bunt with a runner already in scoring position, to leave it up to Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge... and we know how terrible each of them have been. Sveum then chose to have Dioner Navarro bat in front of Lillibridge with first and third one out. Navarro is certainly the better hitter, but he's also as slow as they come, and was a very obvious double play candidate that could've ended the rally with one swing. Sveum then pinch-hit Scott Hairston and had Alberto Gonzalez run for Navarro. That's wasting nearly the whole bench in one inning and leaving you in big trouble if the game goes into extras. Again, it all worked out just fine, but Sveum's decisions were very, very questionable, and could've easily backfired.
- Seriously, Brent Lillibridge is garbage. He's still hitless on the year even. Thankfully, Darwin Barney will go on a minor league rehab assignment this weekend, and will be ready to come off the disabled list Tuesday (Source: Bruce Miles).
- It was nice to see David DeJesus finally get it going at the plate. The veteran went 3-5 (bringing his average up to .192) with a double, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. He also impressed on the basepaths in the eighth inning by advancing to second on a pitch that didn't get far away from Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. DeJesus ran right when the pitch went into the dirt, and put himself in scoring position for what could've been a nice Cubs insurance run heading into the ninth. They of course didn't end up needing that seventh run, though.
- I just love the way Travis Wood is pitching so far. Changing speeds well, using both sides of the plate, and looking very composed. He's pitching like a guy that's been around a lot longer than he has.
- The Cubs' 2012 Rule V Draft pick Hector Rondon is really impressing me out of the pen. The 25-year-old Venezuelan threw 2/3 IP of scoreless baseball on Tuesday night, and has yet to allow a run in his 3 2/3 innings pitched overall. He's also struck out six batters and allowed just one hit on the season. He's showing good velocity on the fastball and a solid slider. He really may have the nastiest stuff in the Cubs' bullpen at the moment, and definitely looks like a keeper.
- Carlos Marmol gave up a triple and got lucky to avoid giving up a run as I said, but I thought he looked good. His slider particularly looked better than it has in any of his previous outings. I could definitely see a hot streak coming from him soon, if it hasn't already started.
- Kyuji Fujikawa looked very comfortable in the closer's role, and that's no surprise given that he saved over 200 games in Japan. He pumps the strike zone and is confident in his fastball. He's very good at changing eye levels with it, usually is close to the catcher's target, and really has some nice movement on his two-seamer. And his splitter of course is nasty. He should do well against left-handed hitters with the two-seam fastball on the inside corner Maddux style, and with the splitter dipping down and away after looking enticing to left-handed hitters when it leaves Fujikawa's hand.
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