Now that the Cubs’ starters are struggling as much as their relievers Lou Piniella was asked yesterday whether he’s considered moving Carlos Zambrano back into the rotation:
No, right now we need Carlos right where he’s at. We asked Carlos to do something that would help this team, and it’s helped this team. If you don’t hold onto leads late in the game, it has a lasting effect on the team.
Which is funny, because a) if you don’t have any late leads to protect that also has a lasting effect on the team, and b) Zambrano hasn’t exactly pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen. Zambrano has allowed three runs in six innings as a reliever, with opponents batting .346 against him. He’s also allowed three of his six inherited runners score, which while not reflected in ERA is certainly a big part of relief value.
He’s been decent as a reliever so far, but no one moves a pitcher making $18 million to the bullpen just so he can be decent and Zambrano has thrown just six innings in a 17-day stretch when he would have started three times. All of which is why it was silly to take a perfectly good starting pitcher capable of logging 200-plus innings and move him into a 70-inning role.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.