When I was a child, I had one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. It was baseball-themed.
My first time through it, I reached Game 7 of the NLCS. The game was tied In the late innings and I had the option of bringing in a tired but dependable reliever or my rested ace, who would be ready to pitch Game 1 of the World Series. I decided to go with the reliever. He got bombed and on the last page of my misadventure the reader was admonished, harshly I might add, that you can't manage Game 1 of the World Series if you don't win Game 7 of the NLCS!
I mention this tale, of course, because last night Lou Piniella opted to manage four days in the future rather than in the moment. Far be it from me to question his baseball knowledge, having gleaned most of mine though flimsy paperbacks I checked out of the school library, while, you know, he has spent his life in the game, but I think he out-thought himself.
Whatever happens tonight, we're going to be talking about Piniella's decision to lift Carlos Zambrano after six innings and just 85 pitches until Sunday. That is if there even is a Sunday, which is the problem with his thinking.
people agreed with the move. When asked about it, Piniella got snippy.
Phil Rogers wrote the players were caught off guard. Arizona's Mark Reynolds was one guy who liked it.
Before tonight's game . "There's no sense in talking about this anymore," he said. "That's yesterday's news."
In his defense, it's not like he brought in some dud. Carlos Marmol has done it all year. And let's not forget Brandon Webb pitched a tremendous game and shut down the Cubs' bats all night.
All this said, if the Cubs win tonight, again on Saturday and Zambrano closes it out on Sunday, the gamble will have paid off. Until then...
We've got Game 2, featuring Ted Lilly against Doug Davis, the type of soft-tossing lefty who always gives the Cubs fits.
The lineups reveal Ryan Theriot moves up to the second spot; Jacque Jones down to eight. Matt Murton replaces Cliff Floyd in left. For the D'backs, Conor Jackson is at first tonight and 20-year-old Justin Upton is in right.
And am I the only one a little weirded out by Chip Caray and Bob Brenly in the same booth doing the Indians-Yankees game?
Computer/cable/programming update: That this game is starting on TNT is killing me. Our office cable has TBS but no TNT, which is a story for another night. But I'm now working on my laptop in someone's office who has a dish. When the game flips back, I'm going to hustle back to my desk like Aramis Ramirez. As for the people who were watching TNT and enjoying this Matthew McConaughey/Sandra Bullock/Samuel L. Jackson/Kevin Spacey/Donald Sutherland/Kiefer Sutherland/Ashley Judd/Charles S. Dutton courtroom drama you are out of luck.
We're off. Alfonso Soriano takes a breaking ball for strike one. Soriano fouls one back and then chases a ball in the dirt for strike three. Here's Theriot. TNT/TBS shows Zambrano in the dugout and ... we've got some nostril penetration. Theriot lines a single to left. Davis has a tricky move to first, as many lefties do. Lee takes a strike and falls behind 1-2. Lee grounds to second. Theriot is out at second but Lee beats Stephen Drew's throw to first. I'm told they patched TNT in on the cable. So what the heck am I doing in this hot office? I'm making the move between innings. Ramirez strikes out swinging. I'll be back.
I'm back. We're back and Ted Lilly walks Chris Young to start the bottom of the first. Lilly strikes out Drew. TBS's red-to-green leadoff graphic is a bit ambitious. If a base runner on first took a lead to the edge of that graphic, he'd be on second base. Lilly's taking his sweet time, with all the wiping of sweat, the throws to first base, the curve balls in the dirt to Eric Byrnes, who works a full count. Young takes off but Byrnes squibs it foul. I'm getting the feeling that last night's game was the first baseball game Dick Stockton has watched in years. Young gets hung up between first and second, but wait ... no, it's ball four. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is on the top step. Geovany Soto runs out to talk to Lilly. Conor Jackson grounds to DeRosa, who flips to Theriot, who makes a nice turn, but Derrek Lee can't come up with the low throw. So first and third and two outs for Reynolds, who hit that big homer last night. Lilly goes to another three-ball count -- 3-1 to Reynolds. Lilly recovers and strikes him out. But that was 25 pitches in the first inning. If Lilly continues ot labor, maybe Carlos Zambrano can come on for some long relief. He's well rested.
Matt Murton beats out a swinging bunt towards third. So the annoying pinhead from last night is not sitting behind the plate tonight. Instead, it looks like a wine and cheese party has broken out back there. The game's this way, folks. Soto hits a line-drive homer to the first row in left. DeRosa looks at a backdoor slider for strike three. Jones draws a four-pitch walk. Good thing for the Cubs, Doug Davis is no Brandon Webb. Lilly squares to bunt but cues it foul. Bunts again and again it goes foul. Does he bunt again with two strikes? Showing bunt all the way, Lilly pulls the bat back and takes a ball. He bunts it foul again and heads back to the dugout. Soriano strikes out again, but the Cubs get on the board first.
Cubs 2, D'backs 0
You think TBS can arrange a Frank Caliendo-Dane Cook death match? Chris Snyder's facial hair is pretty bad and nearly approaching Scott Spiezio levels. Despite that he singles to left. Full count and Upton draws a walk. TBS' sideline reporter Marc Fein says Lou Piniella complained the D'backs grounds crew was watering down the dirt in front of home plate. Lilly strikes out Augie Ojeda looking. As Davis bunts towards third, Dick Stockton screams out "Lee!" (I don't know.) Aramis Ramirez fields it and the only play is at first. Young digs in with runners on second and third with two outs. Young crushes a 3-2 fastball to deep left for a three-run homer. I realize I'm pointing out the obvious but Lilly has gone to way too many three-ball counts. That pitch was grooved. Lilly threw his glove to the ground in disgust. Drew grounds one up the middle. Theriot gets there on the right side of second but bobbles it. He may not have had a play at first had he fielded it cleanly. Byrnes rips one deep to left. Soriano gives an effort but doesn't come close. The ball hits off the top of the wall, bounces past Jones and Drew comes all the way around to score on the triple. Kevin Hart gets up in the Cubs' bullpen. Now 3-0 to Jackson. Lilly is done and may not make it out of the second. Jackson swings away on a 3-0 pitch from a punch-drunk pitcher and grounds out to third to end the inning.
D'backs 4, Cubs 2
Theriot leads off the third with the Cubs down two runs. Theriot grounds out to second. It's official: You have to be a complete toolshed to sit behind home plate at Chase Field. Lee draws a walk. Ramirez skies one foul down the first base line. Jackson gives up on it and Augie over runs it and falls over. Neither come up with it, giving Ramirez new life. Ramirez lines out to short. Murton bounces out on the first pitch and the Cubs get nada.
Lilly remains and Reynolds singles to right on the first pitch. Snyder grounds sharply to Theriot, who makes a really nice back-handed play to start a 6-4-3 double play. Upton pops it up behind home plate and Soto snags it right at the screen. Another great play. The Cubs' defense has showed up. How about some O?
D'backs 4, Cubs 2
So much for Jason Kendall. He may never play again. I can't get over the fact the Cubs have a home-grown catcher like Soto, who takes two balls to start the fourth. Well, I jinxed him there. He strikes out. Drew makes a diving stop at short, gets up and throws out DeRosa. Drew then boots a grounder in the hole off Jones' bat. Jones beats the throw. Lilly's trying to bunt for a hit with two outs. Not sure what's going on there. Lilly takes a curve for strike three. That's seven strike outs for Doug Davis through four. Seven.
Augie bunts down the first-base line. Lee has to field it and Ojeda runs out of the baseline and dives for first. He's called safe. Piniella disagrees and he's out there having a talk with first-base umpire Greg Gibson. Stunningly Gibson doesn't overturn his call. Davis strikes out trying to bunt. TBS is showing an interview with Piniella they taped between innings and he says Lilly is over-throwing the ball. Whatever it is he continues to do it and falls behind Young 3-1. And then walks him. Hart's throwing again in the pen. Soto walks out to the mound. Drew walks to the plate to hit with two on and one out. Now Rothschild comes out to talk to Lilly. Lilly falls behind Drew but comes back to even the count 2-2. Drew knocks in both runners with a triple to the right-field corner. That's it for Lilly. I'm sure he'll throw some things around the dugout. The rookie Hart comes on. Lilly's sitting in the dugout with his arms crossed. Where's Blue Jays manager John Gibbons? He could use his face right about now. Hart strikes out Byrnes. Now Michael Wuertz is up in the pen. Hart strikes out Jackson looking to end the inning.
D'backs 6, Cubs 2
Soriano lines one off the wall in left. Big hero out there Eric Byrnes makes some wild throw to the middle of the diamond and Soriano stays at first? C'mon now. Theriot works the count full before hitting it deep to left but Byrnes gloves it on the track. I thought it had a chance. So did Dick Stockton. Lee pops out to shallow center. This game is unbearable enough without these donkeys behind home plate. They're multiplying. Ramirez flails at a full count pitch low and away and so much for the top of the fifth.
Hart remains in the game and will face Reynolds to start the bottom of the fifth. Reynolds draws a leadoff walk. Sure, former Juan Cruz warming in the Arizona pen. Snyder flies out to right. With Upton up, the ball gets away from Soto and Reynolds takes second. Man, that barely bounced away and Reynolds was off. Nice base running. Upton walks. Piniella looks pained in the dugout. He's not the only one. Lou makes the walk. That's it for for Hart and time for Scott Eyre. Are the commercial breaks 10 minutes long or what? It's approaching 11:30 and it's only the fifth. Ojeda hits with two on and one out. Ojeda singles up the middle off Eyre's pitching hand, scoring Reynolds. You think Augie Ojeda doesn't feel he has something to prove against the Cubs? Eyre hurt his pinkie and he's gone. Michael Wuertz comes on to face a first-and-third-and-one-out situation. After these 46 commercials, that is. Showing bunt all the way, Davis lays it down towards first. Lee charges and underhands the ball to Soto but Upton flies down the line and scores. Wuertz strikes out Young. With Drew up and runners on first and second, the inning's second wild pitch allows Ojeda to take third. Drew bounces back to the pitcher to end this.
D'backs 8, Cubs 2
Some reader mail:
Larry writes, "If I have to hear "Anyone, Anytime" one more time I'm gonna snap. And I swear Augie Ojeda is wearing make up."
Sarah in Paris: "I got out of bed for this? Pathetic."
The Ted Lilly Fan Cub: "Did Ted disappoint? Absolutely. Are we in a dazed, booze filled haze, maybe. Did we just take out our rage on the local stray transient, we won't say."
Phil Thompson from across the newsroom: "Augie (bleeping) Ojeda!"
Steve from Maryland: "God - how bad do we need our big boppers to friggin do something in this game!?!? I hope you can at least enjoy a beer while you blog...."
Beer? I wish.
Murton lines out to right. Soto sends one deep to the right-center gap and Upton runs it down. DeRosa draws a two-out walk. Jones draws a walk and Ronny Cedeno will hit. Ronny Cedeno? D'backs manager Bob Melvin comes out to yank Davis for Juan Cruz. Once upon a time, the Cubs tried to pass Juan Cruz off as the second coming of Pedro Martinez. Sure thing, Ed Lynch. Cedeno has retreated and Daryle Ward will hit. Ward works the count to 3-1. Kerry Wood is up in the pen. Ward rips it deep to center off the base of the wall, scoring both runners. Doug Davis is shown shaking his head in the dugout. Soriano fans at a fastball near his eyes. So, what, Daryle Ward's going to carry this team and the top of the lineup isn't going to do anything?
D'backs 8, Cubs 4
Wood will pitch and face Byrnes. Wood's fastball gets up to 97 and he strikes out Byrnes. Murton runs down Jackson's drive to right. Reynolds flies out to right and Wood sets 'em down 1-2-3.
D'backs 8, Cubs 4
Tony Pena will pitch for the D'backs and Tony Clark takes over at first on the double switch. They get right involved. Theriot grounds to Clark, who flips to Pena covering the bag. Lee singles to center and Ramirez bounced into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
Snyder grounds out. Upton singles to left. Here's Ojeda and people on the board are hoping for a beaning. Instead he bounces into a double play to end the seventh.
D'backs 8, Cubs 4
Righty Brandon Lyon is the new Arizona pitcher. Hey, Frank Caliendo has a new show! Who knew? Drew makes another nice play in the hole at short, this time to get Murton. Soto walks. DeRosa takes a called third. He doesn't like it. TBS' pitch track thing shows it was on the corner. Jones grounds out to end it.
Enter Ryan Dempster in mop-up duty, as Dick Stockton calls it. Dempster strikes out Clark. Young strikes out and Drew grounds out to Lee at first. It's now or never for the Cubs. Or Saturday.
D'backs 8, Cubs 4
I will not be doing the Cubicle on Saturday. I was hoping to go to the game, but we'll see. Amanda will step in. Carlos Zambrano and I will be back Sunday after the marathon, which I'm not running this year, only watching. Jose Valverde, in a non-save situation, is on the mound. Mike Fontenot hits in the pitcher's spot and takes a strike. Fontenot fans. Soriano singles to center. Theriot grounds to Drew, who makes a sliding stop. He flips to Ojeda, who takes it off the noggin. Time for some karmic payback, Augie? Everyone's safe. Lee swings through a 2-2 fastball, so so much for Lee walking and Aramis Ramirez hitting a grand slam to tie it. The pitch goes through Snyder's wickets and both runners move up. Two strikes to Ramirez and he strikes out to end the game.
Final: D'backs 8, Cubs 4
Well, the Cubs show absolutely no life in two games in Arizona and limp home for Saturday's Game 3 facing elimination. But, hey, good thing Carlos Zambrano's rested for Game 4. Good night, everyone. Thanks for reading. Sorry about the outcome.