On a night when the Cubs honored Ernie Banks for being named a Presidential Medal of Honor winner, you’d hope the team would come out winners. They didn’t, but at least they didn’t get shut out. And on a night when the legend of Donnie Murphy nearly grew larger, he ended up being the goat.
With the game tied at 4 against Eduardo Sanchez, pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick walked and advanced on a wild pitch, and Devin Mesoraco walked. Cubs manager Dale Sveum met with the infielders and Sanchez to go over their defense on a bunt play, and originally called for a “wheel” play. But the Reds were able to load the bases when Cesar Izturis’ bunt bounced through Murphy’s legs. Choo then singled to right-center to drive in two.
“I honestly can’t tell you what that ball did,” Murphy said. “It bounced, and I don’t even know what the spin did — it went towards me. I don’t think I even touched the ball.
“Even from taking ground balls here in [batting practice], it does some funky stuff out there, and that’s not what I was expecting at all with that ball. I think what threw us off, the [wheel] play we were going to run, [Izturis] slashed on it the pitch before that, and we had to hold our ground a little more instead of just crashing. I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened on that play. I just missed it, and it killed us.”
Jeff Samardzija once again struggled with getting ahead in the count.
“It goes back to walks,” Samardzija said. “Consistency is hand in hand with pitch efficiency. When you’re putting 10 guys on in the game when you mix in five, six hits and a few walks, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you have to battle and throw extra pitches and big pitches. With two outs and a guy’s on first, those pitches aren’t the same as one out and [runners on] second and third.
“It’s something we’ve addressed, and we’ll put an asterisk next to it for importance and go from there. We’re striding in the right direction for sure.”
But Theo Epstein still wants to see some consistency from Spellcheck.
“I want him to continue to grow as a pitcher and continue to develop the consistency, which I think is the last remaining hurdle for him,” Epstein said. “He’s got tremendous stuff, he’s got tremendous makeup. The only thing separating him from being the pitcher he can be is that context.”
Here’s to hoping that asterisk helps Jeff with his pitch efficiency.
In other news, the Cubs continued their international free agent spending spree, this time with a 18-year-old Jen-Ho Tseng, a pitcher from Taiwan. He pitched in the WBC for Taiwan and was the youngest player on their roster.
Tseng was used as both a closer and a starter, and has an above average fastball, ranging from 89-96 mph, a real good slider in the mid to upper 80s. He also has an above average changeup, which is unique for a high school kid, and a very good curveball. The right-hander was a senior in high school when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.
The Taiwan pro league started a draft this year in hopes of keeping players like Tseng from going to the U.S. Major Leagues. One scout told me: “This is a huge deal in Taiwan. Similar in its own right to a Kobe or Lebron signing out of high school. He is revered there. He is a wonderful kid, works hard and has a feel for pitching. I would say he is like getting an extra compensation round pick.”