Because of course Joe Maddon would choose to lift Anthony Rizzo for a pinch-runner in the top of the 9th inning of a scoreless game. And to get even more Joe Maddon-y, the manager chose to have a pitcher do the running.
Okay, so it was actually Leonys Martin, the speedy outfielder who made his Cubs debut Monday as an emergency reliever. But it still raised eyebrows given the situation and the very small incremental advantage it gave the Cubs. Things looked good when Martin moved into scoring position with a steal, but then Ian Happ went down swinging to put the Cubs down to their last out.
After working a 3-1 count, game-winning-hit-getter Alex Avila laced a changeup down the line in right and motored around the bases for a triple. I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure even Rizzo could have scored on the play. From first even. Hell, a ghost runner would have scored.
I joke a little, as I get what Maddon was doing in a tight game with razor-thin margin for error and a Cubs offense that had scored all of four runs in the previous three games. It’s just hilarious that off all the things that could have happened after pulling Rizzo, Avila hitting his first triple since 2013 is the last you’d ever imagine. But that’s not the only baseball-is-weird-AF part of the game.
Consider for a moment the plight of Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole, who went 8 shutout innings, allowing only a pair of singles with four walks and eight strikeouts. When combined with his last start against the Cubs, Cole’s gone 15 innings and has allowed one unearned run on four hits and four walks with 16 strikeouts. And he’s 0-1 in those games. Woof.
Then again, I can’t feel too bad for the guy who threw shade at the Cubs last season.
Maybe it’s because it came against Cole and maybe it’s because it snapped the mini-skid, but this win feels like it bears the weight of significance. Most of that heft was provided by Jose Quintana, who spun a gem to keep the Cubs in lock-step with the Pirates and is looking more and more like the guy the Cubs thought they were getting.
Quintana has given up 12 earned runs over his last five starts, but six of those came in a very forgettable effort against the Phillies. Though it was far from playoff competition, holding the Pirates scoreless Wednesday night led to his second-highest game score (68) as a Cub and came at a time the team desperately needed it.
Carl’s still a junior
Though one of them was intentional, the box score says Carl Edwards Jr. had two walks in Tuesday night’s game. He also gave up three singles, thereby giving him more hits allowed than walks. Which is bad. That might otherwise be apropos of nothing, but Len Kasper mentioned on Wednesday’s broadcast that the Stringbean Slinger has issued more walks in his career than he’s give up hits.
After allowing three of each in a very limited 2015 stint, Edwards walked 14 and gave up 15 hits last season. And with his last outing factored in, the reliever has now walked 35 and given up 27 hits here in 2017. For those not keeping score at home, that’s 52 walks and 45 hits.
Where things really get interesting, at least for someone like me who takes pleasure in life’s mundanity, is when you look at the kind of hits he’s given up. Over 22 percent of the hits against him (10 of 45) are home runs, which is staggering figure. Hector Rondon is at 12 percent in that regard, Pedro Strop is at 8.6 percent, and Wade Davis is at 6.5 percent (as a reliever).
More than once have I touted Edwards as a closer of the future, Joe Maddon’s done the same. But the thing about pitching in high-leverage situations is you really can’t walk a lot of guys. And while you’re bound to give up some hits here and there, it’s probably not good for nearly a quarter of them to leave the yard. Definitely a few items ol’ Carl’s gonna need to work on if he’s eventually going to be out there at the end of the game.
More news and notes
- With his triple, Avila is batting .409 (9-for-22) with four extra-base hits and a .500 OBP (13-for-26) with RISP since coming to Chicago. He’s also struck out nine times, so we’re looking at an insano-cheese .591 BABIP in those situations.
- Willson Contreras begins his rehab assignment with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans today. The plan is for him to catch 3-4 innings Thursday, then DH Friday and reassess on Saturday.
- The Cardinals acquired former Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio after he was placed on waivers by the Phillies, though he won’t be playoff-eligible should St. Louis make it. This is the second time Nicasio has been claimed on waivers, with the first coming in August by the Phillies. But word came out yesterday that the Cubs had initially put in a claim on the reliever either prior to or during their series with the Pirates in Chicago.
- Billy Hamilton has a fractured thumb and could likely miss the remainder of the season. The Cubs finish the season against the Reds, so not having to face their noted nemesis could come into play. Ideally it doesn’t, but you can never be too sure.