Chicago Cubs in trouble from the start in loss to Diamondbacks
As the great Chicago sports writer Bob Verdi would put it, the Chicago Cubs were "in a spot you wouldn't wish on a leopard" Monday night.
With their sixth game in five days, the Cubs had to turn to Luke Farrell for a "spot start" against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.
Suffice to say, it didn't go well for Farrell and the Cubs.
The D'backs scored 5 runs in the first inning and another in the second on the way to a 7-1 victory before 40,859 fans on Javier Baez Bobblehead Night.
"It was a tough start," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the one thing we couldn't have happen tonight, and it happened."
Those who stuck around did get some comic relief.
After Brian Duensing and Randy Rosario came out of the bullpen and pitched well, Maddon turned to catcher-infielder Victor Caratini to pitch for the second time since Friday with two outs in the eighth inning. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who had been lobbying to pitch, finished up by getting A.J. Pollock to fly out to end the top of the ninth on two pitches.
Rizzo said that was the end of his pitching career.
"The end, that's it," he said. "It was awesome. I promised Joe I wouldn't blow out."
Starting pitching has been a concern for the Cubs all season. They have only 38 quality starts compared with 61 non-quality starts. Maddon knows that, sooner or later, this trend is going to take a toll on the bullpen.
"It would be difficult because eventually you're going to totally wear out the better part of your bullpen," he said. "That's my concern. It's been my concern. (Sunday) we were forced almost into that situation with (Jose Quintana) because there wasn't as much bullpen available.
"Perversely, it actually benefited both him and us. He got through that 7 (innings). That could be the seminal moment for him going into the rest of the season, being pushed to that number, the result he achieved, how he kept getting better game in progress."
Maddon went as long as he could with Farrell: 3⅓ innings. Duensing came in out of the pen and stopped the bleeding, working 2⅔ hitless and scoreless innings. Rosario went 1⅔, giving up an unearned run.
"I got jumped on early, made some bad pitches early, and they took advantage of it," Farrell said. "I just left some sliders up in the zone that they got to."
The Cubs' bullpen has been good overall this year, and it has done yeoman's work. It's also helped that the Cubs have used their "Iowa shuttle" to bring relievers back and forth.
But that, too, can be a concern down the line, especially the more inexperienced relievers.
"The thing is, you get into those really headbanging games in September and you don't know how everybody's going to react at that point. And guys get tired," Maddon said. "When fatigue sets in, it's hard to reset. So you really try to avoid because once fatigue sets in and you have a couple bad moments, it's hard to just throw that in the garbage can and come back mentally and physically.
"Yes, we've had some guys step in and perform really well, but some of them have never done it under those circumstances before either. I have no idea what they're going to react like."