Quality Starts and Pinch Runners: Cubs 1, Pirates 0

Quality Starts and Pinch Runners: Cubs 1, Pirates 0

This was nearly the middle school dance of baseball games: hesitancy, missed opportunities, squandered chances, and leaving empty-handed. Only Alex Avila's 9th-inning triple rescued the night. Probably thanks to Joe Maddon's decision to pinch run for Anthony Rizzo and replace him with Leonys Martin, the Cubs ended their skid and have a chance to split the four-game series with Pittsburgh.

Before Rizzo's walk and Martin's steal of second base, Jose Quintana and Gerrit Cole were the story of the night. Quintana because he has been a challenge to watch for so much of his tenure with the Cubs, and Cole for his eight innings of sterling work. It was refreshing to see Quintana pitch so well, going six innings and not allowing any runs, but while this was happening, Cole kept the Cubs offense from producing any runs.

There were opportunities, however. In the first inning, Chicago put two runners on with just one out thanks to consecutive walks to Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant, but Rizzo grounded into a double play to spoil both runners.

They got two runners on again in the next inning, but this time with two outs. Ian Happ and Alex Avila both struck out, and then Jason Heyward walked and Javier Baez singled. But Quintana was the next batter, and he struck out.

Those would be the best scoring chances the Cubs had until the top of the ninth, when Cole finally surrendered the game to his bullpen. Daniel Hudson was called upon to preserve the tie, but instead he walked Rizzo, allowed pinch-runner Martin to steal second, and then gave up a triple to right field to Alex Avila. Then enter Wade Davis for the bottom of the ninth, and it's over.

The Pirates had their best chance in the sixth, when Andrew McCutchen and David Freese opened the inning with singles, but thanks to an atypical double play, the threat was neutralized. Jose Osuna fought through a long ten-pitch at bat, fouling off five consecutive pitches, before he grounded a curveball to Baez at short, who threw to Kris Bryant for a force out at third, and then Bryant nearly sailed the throw to second for another out, but La Stella stretched and kept his foot on the bag.

From there, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop carried the seventh and eighth innings before Davis took the ninth, allowing only one baserunner on a walk between the three of them.

Cubs win, 1-0.

Source: FanGraphs

A pinch runner though?

The decision to lift Rizzo for Martin in the 9th was one that sparked a mini-debate on Twitter during the handful of minutes until Avila tripled to right.

In summary, one side thinks that Rizzo should have been kept in to keep his bat in the lineup in the event of an extra-inning game, and that he would have scored on Avila's triple anyway. Understandable.

The other side is that in a 0-0 tie in the ninth inning and on the road, you manufacture the scoring opportunity. It could be argued that maybe Rizzo doesn't score because he likely would not have stolen second like Martin and kept Avila from being able to advance all the way to third. Who knows.

For me, I'm about the latter. Create the opportunity to score a run, especially given the aforementioned circumstances and that you've lost three in a row already and have the Brewers coming to town this weekend. Manufacture and capitalize.

Player of the Game:

Jose Quintana? Six innings pitched, six hits, only one walk, and six strikeouts.

Alex Avila? He was hitless with two strikeouts prior to his RBI triple.

Strop/Rondon? They preserved the tie in a pair of crucial innings.

I generally err on the side of the pitcher in these cases, but tonight I have to give it to Avila. That was a timely piece of hitting that was sorely needed.


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  • That was an impressive win. Showed team toughness and guts. Quintana nails. Went toe to toe with Cole, who pitched a whale of a game himself. Q working out of that 2 on, nobody out jam really showed me something: a high compete level. Very impressive. Then Rondon and Strop both look great and shut em down. Rizzo gets on base. Avila once again comes through with a big clutch hit. And Davis does his thing. That three pitch K of Freese was a thing of beauty.

    These nail biters are nerve wracking, but what drama. Great game. Great win.

    September Baseball!
    Gotta love it!

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    this is the Q we traded for. He battled and battled and didn't give up a run. We had good pitching, great defense, and eventually timely hitting. We need a speedster on the bench for exactly situations like this. Pitchers and catchers are distracted and that little bit of lack of concentration makes a huge difference. I love speed (in athletes).
    I also can't wait for Norway to tell us where we are.
    Go Cubs!!

  • Great win! Cole was untouchable tonight. Maddon out managed Hurdle, who should have pitched around Avila and taken his chances with Heyward, as first base was open. The left side of the infield made some big plays foe Q.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Maddon has out managed everyone this year preparing the team and putting them in position for another, yes another title run.

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    Maddon has done well. Sometimes he is outmanaged. Sometimes he makes mistakes and even admits to them. But I do think he is the best manager for THIS team. He may not work as well in a culture/situation like the Cardinals have.

  • The Dodgers have lost five straight, and 10 of 11. Meanwhile, the DBacks have won 12 straight, yet they're still 11.5 back. Wild.

    Contreras should return shortly. Quintana is pitching better. Things could be trending upward for the Cubs. Just fingers crossed on Arrieta.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    I am not too worried about Arrieta but I wouldn't mind them "skipping" a start for him, though. Maybe go with a 5-man rotation for a little bit (like a couple guys pitch on 4 days rest) and then maybe pull up Tseng for a start and make it a "bullpen game." In September this is more appealing to me because of the extra arms in the 'pen. Even if we lose that game--which isn't assured--giving Arrieta some rest will likely help him, and the team, more than having him make every start. I think he is the only starter to take the ball every 5th day all season. And while I am sure he is proud of that maybe it would be better for the team if he wouldn't be so *selfish* as to make every start...if that makes any sense.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I agree, thats why I suggested this a couple weeks ago(even before his injury). We need our arms to be as fresh as possible for the playoffs. That's why I thought the Lester injury was a blessing in disguise at the time considering it was a minor injury.

    That's why it hurts so much to blow games to easy opponents and blow games late that we have won. It makes us being able to rest starters and go w Tseng or a bullpen game as you suggested less and less possible.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I remember you mentioning it but didn't recall who it was or I would have attributed the concept to you. My thought when I read that they found an "injury" when he said it was a "cramp" (I believe, though that could be wrong) made me think that the Cubs were going to use the 10-day DL as an "excuse" to skip a start for him. But they wouldn't really need him to go on the DL. They could keep him on the roster but just skip his start. They are coming up on an "off day" and since they currently have a 6-man rotation they could probably skip his start (resulting in a 5-man rotation) and then the day off would result in the same number of days off as a 6-man rotation. Then maybe against the Mets we go with Tseng to start the game and tell him, "Just give me 3-5 innings and we will piece together the rest of the game as best we can." Even if we lose that game giving Arrieta a start or two less might well be worth it.

  • Absolutely love the first sentence of the recap, Jared. So true.

    Did I ever mention my perfect baseball game is a 1-0 pitcher's duel with a (semi) manufactured run in the ninth to win it? I'm a happy Cubs fan tonight.

    Quintana looked good, the bullpen looked good, the W looks great. We've had a few rough days lately, but I like what I'm seeing in the overall scheme of things.

    Tick... tick... tick...

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    How about the near perfect game Harvey Haddix pitched in 1959. He pitched 12 perfect innings against Lou Burdette and in the 13th finally lost 1-0. It isn't considered a perfect game because he didn't win but that might have been the best pitched game ever!
    It was a great game tonight though, and we won.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Nope. Kerry Wood's 20K game.

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    In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    I think that was judged to be the best game ever pitched, but Haddix has to be the 2nd. Kerry was unbelievable that day--I wasn't there (as I'm sure 100K say they were) but watched on TV. It was unbelievable.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'm a baseball historian, and I know you are too, so I appreciate that. More recently, in fact just a couple weeks ago, ex-Cub Rich Hill lost a game, and a no-hitter, on a walk-off HR in the 10th. And I still believe Kerry Wood's 20-K, 1 H (?), 0BB game against Houston was the most dominant pitching performance in baseball history, though I admit to being biased. :)

    I SOOO wanted to see Szczur hit that walk-off 3-run bomb, but it was not to be. Still a great night for the Cubs.

    I'm in such a good mood, I thought about breaking out that postponed Sabbath, but I'm actually feeling a little nostalgic. I don't know how to pull up people's comment history here, or even if you can, but I was thinking of my first-ever lyric post. It was on an article about Castro, and I think John and I were discussing something. But I just threw it out there. Anyway:

    "Freedom's just another word for
    Nothing left to lose."

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    One hit for HOU on a ground ball to Kevin Orie. I want to say it was hit by Biggio but that may not be right. I think Biggio was HBP, though.

    I believe the KW game was the highest "game score" ever recorded.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    My Favorite 1-0 Games ? Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson. They had many.

  • In reply to Ironman McGinnity:

    Jenkins was a HORSE......and there were at least 5 different times he lost 1-0 games not just against Gibson but others too.

    6 straight 20+ win seasons and then some good years with other teams also.

    I remember the trade, we thought we got hosed.....I think it was Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson for Ferguson Jenkins and Adolph Phillips. We were saying " Who ARE THESE guys?"

    Phillips had 5 homers in a double header once for the Cubs too.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:


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    In reply to Wickdipper:

    I looked it up. In 1968 he lost 5 games 1-0, 4 to future Hallof Famers like himself like Gaylord Perry, and Bob Gibson and Phil Niekro.

  • In reply to Ironman McGinnity:

    Wow games too.....maybe 2 hour games.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Aaahh, Fergie. Very fond memories of Fergie. They don't make them like him anymore, but then, it is a different game from the 60s and 70s.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Yeppppp so true....starters were "expected" to go long to maybe get it to that teams best reliever most of whom used to be starting pitchers.

    Harvey Haddox actually wound up being Pittsburgh's "closer" for years...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Funny, I just said exactly this on another site not five minutes before reading your post. Great pitching is fun to watch and in this game we got two great starting performances that were nothing like each other. Cole was just nasty and had everything working. Len and JD pointed out that the only time he looked vulnerable was in the first when a couple of plate calls didn't go his way and he got rattled. Outside of that dude was nails. Quintana, on the other hand, had good solid stuff but wasn't lights out. The Pirates were making some hard contact but, with the help of some great defense from his teammates, Q didn't allow them to sustain it and if there is a greater test of a pitcher's mettle than that 6th inning I'm not sure what it is. Just a beautiful, if nail biting, ballgame.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Give me a low-scoring game, with excellent pitching and fun defense, and I am a happy viewer. Home Runs are fun to watch, but a few sparkling defensive plays are even better.

  • With CIN win over MIL and StL win over SD, the nearest chaser to the Cubs is now StL, 4 games back. The Magic Number is now based on the number of Cubs wins and StL losses. This of course will change if MIL and StL start flip-flopping their places in the standings, but that should only be seen as to the Cubs benefit.

    The Magic Number for clinching the division is now 20.

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I love that you are now adding "commentary" to the "magic number." I think for the last couple years it was more, "The magic number is now 20. Go Cubs!" Keep the commentary.

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    To add to the Fergie magic (sorry Javy) he threw at least 20 CGs in a row from 1967-72. In 1971 he started 39 games and had 30 CGs.
    Pitch count? I don't need no stinkin pitch count!

  • Feel like we stole one from Cole last night, which is good because we gave one away the night before. Hudson came on in the ninth last night and walked Rizzo, which ultimately led to the winning run, just like CJ the night before. Quintana gave up some hard contact but threw strikes all night and let his defense help him.

    St. Louis is having a good week out in California, but in the last 10 games (7-3) haven't gained any ground. Like Barley says, tick, tick, tick...Norway's numbers are getting smaller. Go Cubs!

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    In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    I very much agree the Cubs "stole" one. And the Cubs "gave one away" before, so it all evens out.

    The joys of being on top, though, begin and end with the Cubs not having to "outplay" anyone to win the division. For instance, there are 23 games left. If the Cubs finish 12-11 they will have 88 wins. That means that to win the division the Cards would need 89 wins meaning they would have to go 16-7. Not impossible. But going 12-11 is a lot easier than going 16-7.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Those numbers are comforting. But baseball is so weird, you never know which way it will turn. Two weeks ago the Dodgers were the '27 Yankees, and the DBacks had lost 12 of 18 and were about to cough up the final wildcard spot. Since then they've swept LA twice, even without Goldschmidt, while the Dodgers can't get out of their own way and are getting booed at home.

    We have a lot of games coming up with Mil and StL. You are right, Joel. Don't need to win them all, just need to hold serve and put all the pressure on the challengers.

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    In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    Hold serve is a good way to put it. We don't have to win, not even win the series. As long as we don't get swept I think the team will be fine. Remember, the other teams are the ones who have to play better than they've played all year. If they simply do what they've always done they will lose the division.

    The one cautionary note is that doing well is actually easier in shorter stretches. It is easier to win 14-20 games than 65 or 70-100 games, though the "percentage" is similar. It is not implausible that the Cardinals can go 18-5, though it is unlikely. But that would be unlikely, and all the cubs have to do is finish a couple games over .500 the rest of the way and they STILL win the division.

  • I'm starting to wonder if the Cubs wouldn't be better off leaving Javy at SS and moving Addison to 2nd. Javy has settled in very nicely after some early struggles and I think Addy could be great at 2nd.

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    In reply to jefeggs2542:

    Addy could be great at 2B. Javy is doing fine at SS. But a metric I like for a comparison like this is DRS.
    450 innings at SS has a DRS of 2
    485 innings at 2B he has a DRS of 4
    729 innings at SS has DRS of 14.

    While there are certainly flaws in using one stat to evaluate a player I am not sure that Javy is that much better than Addy, and reason to believe Addy might be better.

    Also the UZR. Addy has a UZR of 6.9, Javy has one of -4.1. I am not as fluent in defensive statistics as I am offensive ones, but I am pretty sure in both cases the "higher" the number the better.

    It is nice to know, though, that if Addi goes down or just needs a day off the Cubs can put Javy there comfortably. And if Javy needs some time the Cubs can cobble together something between Zobrist, Happ and La Stella. NONE of them can match him defensively, but all can provide some offense to make up some of the difference. In short, this team is absurdly deep.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Hard to argue with those numbers. I will say that Javys baseball savvy is top notch. Not sure too many other SS go with the unconventional 6 to 5 to 4 DP last night but what a smart move! Its like chess to him it seems. I'm reminded of the intentionally dropped pop out double play Javy started in the NLCS last year.

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    In reply to jefeggs2542:

    I am NOT saying that Javy doesn't have world-class/elite baseball acumen. He makes plays, not just on defense but running the bases, that are extraordinary. I didn't get to watch the game last night but I was scrolling through the highlights and came across a 6-5-4 double play and that got my attention as I don't think I have ever seen that before. Near as I can tell the runners had to hold close to the base in case he caught it in the air but he didn't (not sure if it was intentional, but it might have been). The brilliance was throwing to 3B to get the LEAD runner. Then the presence of mind for Bryant to go to 2B rather than 1B cut down ANOTHER RUNNER that would have been in scoring position. It wasn't a particularly "athletic" play (he fielded the ball and threw a normal throw to a nearby base for a force out) but it did SO MANY things to help the more I think about it the more I think that might have been the biggest play of the game. If he turns a conventional DP there is runner on 3rd with 2 outs. Suddenly a passed ball might have meant the ball game. My point was merely that Addy might be an even better SS. He might have also made the play in question. His arm isn't as good, but he does other things well. It sounds like we agree, though, in general.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think Javy is the best at whatever position that he is playing defense. However, I think the Cubs are a better defense up the middle with Russell at short and Javy at second. Much of the instinctual gift stuff can play out for Javy at second as well as at short.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Kind of like the old story with Honus Wagner: "He's the best SS on the team. He is also the best 1B, 2B, 3B, LF..."

  • In reply to jefeggs2542:

    Agree Addy's arm has been a little suspect this season, plus he has had to take time off for shoulder soreness would probably help with that issue as well.

  • you always make the move that could win the game now. have no problems with the Pinch running of Rizzo. if it doesnt work, then whoever is in the game needs to step up and produce. end of story

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I don't like removing one of the--if not THE--best hitter on the team who is also a very good fielder to gain some "speed." Further, I consider Rizzo to be a quality baserunner. So I don't know that there was a huge difference in the likelihood of winning with Martin running rather than Rizzo.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    How differently would Avila be pitched to if the runner is on first instead of second?

    I didn't see any of the game, so I can't really discuss.

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