The Chicago Cubs played some pretty decent baseball against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game set at Wrigley Field, but the rubber game of the series turned into something of a nightmare for starting pitcher Travis Wood.
The Cubs have a tendency of teasing fans with sporadic bouts of solid play only to revert back to form in a critical moment. Wood certainly did his part to avoid such a fate, despite not being particularly sharp, throwing six shutout innings with nine strikeouts before giving up a leadoff double to Pirates second baseman Neil Walker to end his day. It was at this point that Cubs manager Rick Renteria went to the bullpen, for good or ill, and the results were less than favorable.
Wood was at 106 pitches when he was pulled, so Renteria really should not be faulted for the decision. The manager can only put his players in the best possible position to succeed and must trust that they will get the job done. This was not the case on Thursday afternoon, as relievers Brian Schlitter and James Russell proceeded to create quite a mess, allowing a two-run homer to Travis Snider and a three-run shot to Pedro Alvarez. In the blink of an eye, the Pirates had put up a five spot, and the lead was no more.
The 2014 version of the Cubs are not going to be in contention and will likely struggle to win 70 games, depending on what occurs at the trade deadline. However, these facts don’t make losses like this one any easier to digest.
The team can never seem to put together a complete game in all phases. Just when the offense begins to show signs of life, the pitching falters, either in the case of the Edwin Jackson start on Tuesday night or the Thursday afternoon bullpen meltdown. Unfortunately for all concerned, these tendencies are not going away anytime soon.