Bullpen Implodes Late in Opening Day Loss

One of the first things Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer mentioned when taking over the Cubs was how devastating late game losses can be.  They were referencing the 2011 struggle of Carlos Marmol, who last year was anything but automatic in the ninth inning.  Fast forward to today, and what seemed like a perfect opening day victory, enter the Chicago Cubs bullpen.  With the Cubs holding a precarious 1-0 lead with two outs in the 8th inning Ryan Dempster exited the game to a standing ovation from the Wrigley faithful.  That was the last thing Cubs fans had to celebrate this day, as Wood went on to walk three straight hitters, two of which he was way ahead of, to force in the tying run.

The game entered the ninth tied at one with Carlos Marmol coming in, he retired the first two hitters then served up a double to Chad Tracy which was easily the farthest hit ball of the day.  Ian Desmond followed with a looping single, his third of the game, to right field and just like that the Cubs went from a wonderful opening day, to a loss that was very hard to swallow.  “We want to win every day we’re out there, but especially Opening Day in front of all the great fans,” Dempster said. “When you’re playing close games, you realize how fast things can change. I feel for Woody in that situation, I feel for Carlos [Marmol], because I’ve been in both those seats before. I know it’s not a fun feeling, and I know they’re champing at the bit to get this day over with and get back out there [Saturday].”  Wood was quick to own up to his struggles today as well, “It comes down to making one pitch, and I didn’t make it,” Wood said.

The day started well enough, but it could have been much worse early if not for the wind.  “[Dempster] said, ‘Yeah, it’s not a bad move,'” Sveum said. “He said, ‘I think if it’s a calm day, [Ryan] Zimmerman would have had 900 feet of home runs.”  Dempster was right, you can’t even say Zimmerman just missed two monster shots, I think he got all of them.  Zimmerman hit two towering drives that were both knocked down by the wind, if not for that it could have been 7-0 early.  Dempster was resilient, he struggled through the first couple of innings but Adam Laroche to strike out two different times with a guy at third and less than two outs.  To be fair, Soriano was also robbed of what seemed to be another long blast by the wind.  The game remained scoreless into the fourth inning when Marlon Byrd looped a two out single into left field off of Strasburg to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead which looked like it was going to stand up.  The Cubs tried to make it interesting in the bottom of the ninth inning, with one out Ian Stewart hit a ball about 420 feet, except it only went about 370 feet and resulted in a triple.  Joe Mather came in to pinch run and was subsequently thrown out at home on the next pitch.  Jeff Baker hit the first pitch from Lidge on the ground to Zimmerman and he made a quick accurate throw to cut down Mather on the contact play.

Born on 3rd’s Game Thoughts (After every game):
Well, that didn’t go exactly how I was hoping today.  I think there was a few good things and bad things to take away from today’s game.  Obviously it’s only one game, so there really is no reason to panic, but given the bullpen issues last year it does raise a red flag.  I have no issue with Marmol’s outing today, from the first day of Spring everyone wanted Marmol to be in the strike zone a lot more, and rely less on the swing and miss.  He did that, unfortunately he was wild in the zone to Tracy and he got hurt, Desmond’s base hit was like his other two hits, fortunate to say the least.  Wood’s performance really gets to me, the one thing I hate, like much of you I’m sure, is walks.  Especially walks from a set-up guy in the eigth inning of a one run game.  Striking a guy out is not the only way to record and out, or end an inning.  There was a hurricane blowing in from center field, no one was getting the ball out of the park, go right after the hitter with two strikes.  Maybe Wood was trying to do that, maybe he was trying to be cute, either way it was obvious he didn’t have command, so move on to the next one.  It was fun to watch Dempster battle Strasburg, once Dempster settled down he was dealing.  Strasburg is the real deal, one can only hope, especially if you are a Nats fan that his injuries are behind him because he has a chance to be special.  I wasn’t thrilled with the Cubs approach early, but I guess I understand it.  Not enough pitched taken, but Strasburg is ridiculous with his command, and I can see why the Cubs didn’t want to be down to two strikes.  It makes sense, jump on the first pitch that looks good because you might not get another one.  I just think that there were too many early swings on pitches that we couldn’t do anything with.

FULL BOX SCORE

Game Highlights:
Dempster Postgame
Dempster K’s 10
Stewart’s Triple
Sveum Postgame

GAME PHOTOS

Thanks for reading,
– George Cotugno

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