Game 91: Loss
Cubs 9 Mets 2
Early on, Tommy Glavine looked to be back to his usual self, though the home plate umpire seemed to be squeezing him on the corners. It’s apparent in this stage of his career that if Tommy isn’t getting the corners, he’s going to stuggle; though he can still be effective, it will take him many more pitches. With Mr. Willie’s 100-pitch program, that makes it tough for Tommy to go deep in such games.
As well as Glavine pitched, Cubs’ starter Carlos Zambrano was that much better. He cruised through the first five innings, breezing the ball past the Mets’ batters in an effortless style.
Then came the sixth inning, and both pitchers faltered.
Zambrano gave up a leadoff triple to the Stache, and eventually allowed two runs to score. Little did we know that would be all the scoring the Mets would do on the afternoon.
Glavine gave up three of the five runs scored in the bottom of the inning, though it really wasn’t all his fault … and he certainly didn’t deserve to be removed from the game. The leadoff triple he allowed to Ryan Theriot should have been caught had Endy Chavez not lost the ball in the sun. After the triple, he wisely gave Derrek Lee nothing to swing at. Unfortunately, Aramis Ramirez drove in Theriot on a ball that just got by Chris Woodward, and Mr. Willie inexplicably removed Glavine from the game in favor of Chad Bradford. Why? No one’s sure. Glavine didn’t look like he was tiring, despite throwing 90 pitches.
Let’s take another look at the situation. You bring in Bradford, presumably, to get a ground ball double-play. Well, isn’t that Glavine’s forte? The DP grounder? I understand removing a guy like Steve Trachsel, who isn’t known to get very far beyond the fifth inning, or a youngster, but a veteran workhorse like Glavine, who used to be a bonafide ace — and who may very well be the Mets’ current ace — should be kept in the game to work out of the inning. He’s done it hundreds of times before, and unless there is a physical issue (injury, exhaustion), I just don’t see how you remove a top dog like Tommy Glavine from the ballgame after throwing just five innings. I have before and will continue to be against this seventh game of the World Series strategy. It’s fine once in a while, such as when your bullpen is abnormally well rested or other circumstances allow it, but to apply this quick-hook strategy every single game is dangerous over the long haul. First, you burn out your bullpen, and second, your starters never learn how to pitch through tough situations. Eventually, you condition starting pitchers to pitch to the predefined limit, and then they have little or no chance of going past that limit — mentally or physically. Which means that when playoffs arrive, you MUST rely on the bullpen every game. And there is no bullpen on the planet that can pitch every single day and be perfect.
Had Glavine remained in the game, the Mets still would have lost, since they stopped scoring. But he may have been able to wiggle out of sixth without too much damage, and possibly thrown at least another inning. Instead, the Mets used four relievers, including rookie Henry Owens, who had a meltdown in the seventh. Maybe Glavine throws the seventh instead, then gives way to a reliever in the eighth, and then the Mets have used only two pitchers in the game instead of five.
Sure the Mets are so far ahead of everyone right now that the point seems moot. However, I’m looking ahead, to the end of September and beginning of October, when we’ll need starters who, when they’re pitching effectively, can remain in the game through seven or eight innings. And if we need to go to the bullpen, I want them fresh and healthy, not overworked and riddled with tendinitis all around.