Sometimes it just isn’t your day, but Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Phillies is the latest sign that this just isn’t the Cubs’ year.
Carlos Marmol, who struck out the side in impressive fashion on Friday, entered Saturday’s game protecting a one-run lead. After getting Greg Dobbs to fly out to begin the ninth inning, he walked Brian Schneider and Ross Gload to put the tying run into scoring position. Marmol was able to strike out Shane Victorino for the second out, but surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Placido Polanco, who was activated from the disabled list prior to Saturday’s game.
Tyler Colvin, who was playing left field, actually made a very strong throw to the plate, however catcher Geovany Soto was unable to come up with the ball and apply a tag. Game tied. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only did Marmol walk the next batter Jimmy Rollins on four pitches, he threw ball four to the backstop, allowing Gload to score with the go-ahead run. Yeesh.
Marmol then intentionally walked Ryan Howard to load the bases after Jimmy Rollins stole second base. And that would make tons of sense if Marmol was capable of throwing strikes. He wasn’t. At least not on this particular day. Marmol proceeded to walk Jayson Werth, too, his fifth free pass of the inning. Just to put things in perspective for a minute, Cliff Lee has walked just six batters all freaking season.
Anyway, Cubs manager Lou Piniella finally pulled his closer from the game after he threw just 15 of 39 pitches for strikes. Again, bad day for Marmol, but he’s really been the least of the Cubs’ problems this season. Consider today’s painful loss just another notch in the “sell” column.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.