And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

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Pirates 6, Cardinals 5:  Pedro Ciriaco — not Pedro Ceranno — hit an RBI double as part of a late rally to lift Pittsburgh over St. Louis. The late-inning losses for the Cardinals this year have been legion. This one coming on a night when the Braves lost was particularly ill-timed.

Marlins 5, Braves 4: Atlanta continues to sputter, but I suppose if the Cards keep pace with them it’s no harm, no foul. Mike Stanton came in as a pinch hitter in the 12th to drive in the winning run. Atlanta has lost 9 of 12.

Rays 5, Orioles 2: The Rays keep the heat on, winning on a night when Boston was idle to pull within three games in the wild card race. B.J. Upton doubled twice and walked twice and has now reached base nine straight times.

Tigers 14, White Sox 4: Juggernaut. Ten straight wins for Detroit. Their nine game winning streak as of Sunday was the longest they had had since 1984. Now that it’s ten, it’s the longest since 1968. And you know what happened in those years, don’t you Tigers fans?

Cubs 12, Reds 8: Starlin Castro scored four times and drove in three. He has a 13-game hitting streak now.

Athletics 6, Angels 3: The Rangers have owned Oakland. Against the Angels, however, the Athletics are playing spoiler. Josh Willingham drove in four.

Yankees 9, Mariners 3: What happened to Felix Hernandez last night? That’s the wrong question to ask, at least if you’re Nick Swisher: “I think we’ve got a great team. The credit goes to us, man.”  I guess so. But King Felix had owned the Yankees prior to last night when the knocked him around somethin’ fierce.

Giants 8, Padres 3: Eleven runs scored in a Giants-Padres game? It’s like they, I dunno, switched to the metric system or something.

Diamondbacks 7, Dodgers 2: The Dbacks don’t let up, winning their 17th of 20.

Nationals 3, Mets 2: Stephen Lombardozzi was 0 for his first 15 since his callup, but he drove in the go-ahead run on an RBI single in the seventh.  Jayson Werth had three hits.

Astros 5, Phillies 1: Roy Oswalt doesn’t fare well against his old mates. Well, his old jerseys. Most of his old mates are gone I would imagine. Houston beats Oswalt up for five runs on 11 hits in seven innings. Brett Myers — against his old mates — scattered six hits over eight innings, allowing a lone run.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.