Tonight, the Cubs lost to the Pirates in not-so-surprising fashion (we’ll get to that later). Scott Baker was actually pretty good up until he gave up the home run to Jose Tabata. Still, he held the Pirates to a single run over six full innings.
And then, James Russell came in. He got Justin Morneau to ground out, which was fine. But then he had to face Marlon Byrd. Byrd is now off his steroids and actually has a career high in home runs this season (imagine that). Byrd also doesn’t have a huge career platoon split, but looking at this season only, he is beating the crap out of lefties at a significantly higher clip than against RHP. So you have to wonder, especially with James Russell, who we think isn’t all that good (even if some think that he’s just overused), and who should just be a situational LOOGY, should be taken out for a righty. Especially with expanded rosters in September.
Nope. Byrd homers on the second pitch, a “fast” ball on a 1-0 count. That proved to be the game-winner.
The funny thing is that in recent weeks, Dale Sveum seemed to have recognized that Russell should only be used as a LOOGY and did deploy him as such. The problem was that Russell still gave up some annoying hits and homers to even lefties. Maybe that’s just my faulty memory and perhaps I now have an anti-Russell bias because I cringe every time I see him take the mound, but that’s what I feel like it happening. So leaving him in to face Marlon Byrd when Brooks Raley and Zach Rosscup were available later on was kind of weird.
But then you look at the standings and notice that with today’s win by the Pirates and the subsequent loss by the St. Louis Cardinals, the two best teams in the division now have identical records of 86-62. And suddenly…it all makes sense.
Dale Sveum is helping to cement the Cubs’ top 5 pick next year, and also to help the Pirates win the division. It’s the only explanation. I think it makes sense. Kudos to you, Dale Sveum, always looking out for the team’s future and for the little guy.