Brooks Raley's 2012 season ended with a bang Thursday.
Fortunately for Raley, the final bang came off the bat of a Cub in an improbable and messy 12-11 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.
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The Cubs scored 3 runs in the ninth inning off Francisco Rodriguez, with Anthony Rizzo tying the game with a double and Alfonso Soriano winning it with a one-out single to left-center to score Starlin Castro.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Cubs trailed 9-3 before they rallied for 6 runs in the sixth.
"Anybody else need a nap?" said manager Dale Sveum, who was as exasperated by the goings-on for four hours as he was exhilarated by the outcome.
Sveum was then asked where he wanted to start.
"Good or bad?" he replied with a question. "It was 9-3 and some things got taken for granted, and it really got ugly. I wasn't the happiest guy in the world at about the fifth inning, not just the score but some things that went on."
Even though the score doesn't indicate it, the story of the day for the Cubs was a pitching situation that began changing before the game started and will change again as September progresses.
Raley, who was called up recently from Class AAA Iowa, got banged around by the Brewers to the tune of 10 hits and 7 runs over 4 innings. Included were booming home runs by Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun.
Before the game, Sveum said the Cubs were shutting Raley down for the season after the game because of his innings count. Raley began the season at Class AA Tennessee, where he logged 48 innings before throwing 82 at Class AAA Iowa and 24 for the Cubs.
The Cubs will use another lefty, Chris Rusin, to take Raley's rotation spot.
"I knew that was going on," Raley said. "Obviously, I'd like to go a different way, (but) we won the game, so that's exciting. Starting in Double-A and getting here has obviously been a huge opportunity and a blessing. Hopefully ... I build off this. This off-season, get better and go down to spring training ready to go."
Sveum praised Raley for getting big-league time without having gone to spring training with the major-league club.
That said, Sveum acknowledged the growing pains being endured by Raley and several other young pitchers.
"Those guys got to learn how to pitch at this level," he said. "When you've got to face the Brauns and these guys, you just don't think, 'I'm going to throw a 3-0 pitch or I'm going to throw an 0-0 pitch and think I'm going to get away with it right down the middle.' It's got to be a quality pitch in the big leagues all the time because these are the best hitters in the world."
Raley isn't the only pitcher to watch. New staff ace Jeff Samardzija is being monitored, as well. In his first full year as a major-league starter, he has thrown a career-high 158 innings.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Sveum said. "He's pitching 7 innings in every game right now. Hopefully, it continues. Liked we talked about before, he's been so strong. We're just going to have to evaluate that as the season goes the rest of the way and where we are with starting pitchers to fill spots, too."
Samardzija is a different case from Raley, but much of the Cubs' thinking is the same on all of their young pitchers.
"You just don't throw innings on people that they haven't even come close to before, especially in a stress-filled major leagues," Sveum said. "But the younger guys, you're taking the body types, too, guys that aren't very physically strong and don't have a lot of weight on them. You take a lot of those things into consideration as well."